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C. F. CLAY, Manager. 

l^nOlon: FETTER LANE, E.C. 

•lasooto: so, WELLINGTON STREET. 

Ikto lorit: G. P. PXTTNAM'S SONS. 
ISomteB w^ ffilmtta: MACMILLAN AND CO., Ltd. 

[Aii Rights reservni] 





I. SCOTLAND 1643— 1674 

By T. E. S. CLARKE, B.D. 

Minister of Saltoun 

II. ENGLAND 1674— 17 15 

With Bibliographical Appendixes 


Editor of "A Supplement to Burnet's History of his Own Time" 

By C. H. FIRTH, M.A. 

Regius Professor of Modem History, Oxford 


at the University Press 




That.. .which is called... /oxxam is often necessary to animate us to 
great undertakings, and to support us in difficult performances; and if 
a man could. ..root it out of his mind.. .it would mightily emasculate the 
vigour of his active powers. 

Burnet, Funeral Sermon on James Haublon [1680^ p. 9. 

He that never makes a blunder never makes anything. 

•*■ • • 

• • 

• * • 

•• • 

• • • 

• • • • 

a • 

IN •RKAT ■niTAini 


THE scheme of the following work demands some 
explanation. It originated with the present writer; 
whose attention, during some years, had been claimed by 
the task of editing, for the Clarendon Press, English 
Historical Society, and Scottish History Society respec- 
tively, the memoirs and autobiography of Bishop Burneti 
with portions of his correspondence. These researches 
seemed to justify a new Life of Burnet, which was ac- 
cordingly outlined. Hope of additional material induced 
application to Saltoun Manse, Burnet's early home, for 
such traditions of his ministry as might linger in the parish. 
These were courteously supplied ; but since it appeared 
that Mr Clarke had himself in contemplation a similar 
project, with special reference to Burnet's Scotch experi- 
ence, it seemed better to produce one complete, than 
two imperfect biographies. Actual collaboration being 
impossible, a division of the subject became imperative. 
The rough draft already prepared (so far as it related 
to the initial stages of the Life) was placed at Mr Clarke's 
disposal; while Mr Qarke contributed some valuable memo* 
randa to Part H, which are duly acknowledged in locis. 
Either writer, however, accepts unreserved responsibility 
for the chapters actually contributed. 

Among existing sources of information, the most im- 
portant are the memoirs and autobiography; and special 
thanks are due to the Delegates of the Clarendon Press, 

vi Preface 

who were good enough to waive, in respect of the present 
work, all copyright claims. The fine collection of Burnet 
MSS., acquired some seventy years ago, from a descendant 
i/ of the Bishop, by the Bodleian Library \ afforded much 
additional material. The British Museum and Lambeth 
Palace Libraries supplied some useful correspondence ; 
while unpublished letters of first-rate significance were 
unearthed, with the sanction of the respective authorities, 
from the Hanoverian archives and the Library of the 
Remonstrants, Amsterdam. The author of Part I is 
under obligations to the Marquis of Tweeddale, who 
kindly permitted the inspection of the Lauderdale MSS. 
at Yester, and to Mr P. B. Swinton, through whom that 
permission was obtained. The Earl of Dysart gave an 
equally generous access to the Lauderdale MSS, at Ham 
House. This collection (of which the Lauderdale Papers, 
now in the British Museum, and partly published by Dr 
Airy, once formed part) is neither calendared nor arranged. 
A thorough investigation was impossible in the time at the 
present writer's disposal ; but extracts were made, which 
proved of real importance. It may be added that every 
work justly attributable to Burnet, with two insignificant 
exceptions, has been consulted for the purposes of the 
work. Where possible Burnet's own language has been 
employed ; more especially where it has been practicable 
to cite the racy and vigorous terms of the memoirs and 
autobiography. Spelling and punctuation, as a general 
rule, conform to modern usage ; but a few specimens are 
given in seventeenth century orthography. 

^ N. and Q.^ 2nd Ser. Vol. x. p. 105. These papers (save the MSS. of the 
History Own Tinu employed by Routh and Airy) were long ignored. Pocock 
used a few, when editing Hist. Reform. ; but otherwise they were untouched 
till investigated (almost it would appear simultaneously) by the present writer, 
V and by Mr H. W. Davis, whose excellent little sketch of Burnet will be found in 
Typical English Churchmen. 

Preface vii 

The author of Part I takes this occasion of thanking 
his friend the Rev. Dr P. Hay Hunter for his great help 
in reading the proofs of that Part. The present writer is 
obliged to Prof, S. Cramer who kindly collated the careful 
transcripts of the Amsterdam letters made by Mr J. 

The references and notes are postponed to Appendix I. 
Owing to an accidental misunderstanding, the mode of 
reference differs as between the two Parts. Mr Clacke's' 
figures relate to the commencement of the passage annotated ; 
those of Part 1 1 refer to its end. 

For the Bibliographyy List of Letters^ and Index^ the 
present writer is entirely responsible. "The task was 
simplified by the obliging loan of twenty volumes from 
vY the excellent library belonging to Saltoun Manse. This 
library, which still receives an -annual addition under the 
terms of Bishop Burnet's Will, is exceptionally rich in 
rare works relative to the Bishop. 

Exception may possibly be taken to the stress laid on 
the religious and theological aspect of Burnet's career, as 
opposed to the political interest, which is more usually 
emphasized. A suspicion might even arise that professional 
sympathies had biassed, in this respect, the author of Part I. 
It will be observed, however, that Part H, where no such 
prepossessions can exist, and where the attitude is of neces- 
sity purely historical, presents the same feature. In truth 
(whatever the personal opinions of writer or reader) an 
impartial study of Burnet's career and writings but sub- 
stantiates his own statement, "My thoughts have run 
"most, and dwelt longest, on the concerns of the Church 
"and religion." 

The main difficulty of both writers has been to compress, 
within limits, the mass of material available. The work 

^ Owing to pressure of circumstances, the Introduction is less fully Indexed 
than the rest of the work. 

viii Preface 

was originally planned on a somewhat larger scale. The 
condensation which circumstances rendered necessary was 
greatly assisted by the suggestions of Professor Firth ; to 
whom the authors, no less than the public, are indebted 
for his valuable Introduction. 

In conclusion, a hope is expressed that this picture 
of a varied career, and a vivacious personality, may attract 
the general reader, as well as the historical student 


15 August iqorj. 


Preface. By H. C. Foxcroft 
Addenda, Corrigenda, Errata 
Introduction. By Professor Firth 


V — Vlll 


xi — xlvi 

By T. E. S. CLARKE. 


I. Family, Home-life and Training . . 3 — 21 

II. Youth, Friends and Early Travels . . 22 — 51 

III. Life and Work in Saltoun .... 52 — 79 

IV. Professor in Glasgow 80 — 128 


By H. C. foxcroft. 

V. London under Charles II 131 — 206 

VI. In exile under James II 207 — 250 

VII. The Revolution 251 — 264 

VIII. Reign of William and Mary .... 265 — 331 

IX. Reign of William III 332 — 391 

X. Reign of Anne; Hanoverian Accession; Death 

OF Burnet; Conclusion 392 — 484 


la. Notes to Part I. By T. E. S. Clarke . 

I d. Notes to Part II. By H. C. Foxcroft . 

II. Bibliography 

III. List of Burnet's Letters 













p. 17, 1. 37 add nat£: 
His theses are in the Bodleian (Diss. B. B., 301, Art. 10). 

p. 248, I. 38 add note : 

A large number of MS. Sermons are among the Burnet MSS. in the Bodleian 
(Add. MSS. D. 24). 

p. 514, after last line add\ 

1703. With a Preface. By Gilbert Burnet^ now Lord Bishop of Sarum. The 
Fourth edition corrected: To which is added a Table, London... Thomas Bever...i703. 
(and tract included.) 

P- 535» ^f^*^ 1-13 ii^ert\ 

1988. French trans., Amsterdam, Pierre Savouret. 

after 1. 36 insert: 

1888. German trans. (Leipzig ?), as Part II of Some Letters (q. v.). 

P* 53^1 ^/f^ !• 10 add: 

The Enquiry was included in A Second Collection of Papers relating to the present 
juncture of affairs in England^ of which the third edition appeared in 1689. 

P' 557, after 1. 10 insert : 

1677. To a person unnamed. From my Study in Lincoln's Inne, the 9th of 
November, 1677. Bodl. MSS. Add. D. 23 ff. 97-8. 

[On the Roman controversy.] 


While revising the Bibliography, the author of Part II discovered in the memorandum 
published by Blencowe and quoted on pp. 260-1, an indication of date which had been 
overlooked. This is given in the words ** If the King goes away" ; which show that the 
paper was written certainly before the King's second night, possibly before his first. It 
becomes therefore necessary to make the following alterations in the text : 

p. 158, after 1. 33 insert: 

** It is probable that we are conversant with some of his arguments. In a curious 
" undated memorandum found among the Sidney papers, and apparently belonging to 
" the interval we now consider he " {and continue as from p. 160 Icut line to p. 361, 1. 18). 

pp. 360-1. Omit from p. a6o, 1. 37, **his own opinion," to p. a6i, 1. ao, ** eye. If 
so *' ; inserting instead: 

" a change in his own opinion is observable. He had, at both periods, originally favoured 
*'a compromise. The King's flight had in the present instance, altmd the conditions ; 
**and moreover" 

p. 458, 1. 19 omit "Portugal." 

p. 460, 1. 36 before "English" insert "some." 

P* 557> l^ 9~i I ^^'^ i^o^c • 

This letter must be retransferred to the year 1673, as it gives Lauderdale the title 
of Duke, which he did not receive till May i, 1671. 

P- U7. 
P- 154. 
p. 335» 
P- 376. 
P- 4831 
p. i66i 
p. 186, 

P- 5^3. 
P- 530» 



• 36, ybr "singular" reeul "singularly." 

• n/for "Hollis" read "Holies." 

ftn. 1. I, for '*Mortuis'' read *' Afortibus." 
3, for " Assembly " read " Establishment." 
2$, for "forms" read "form." 
19, note, for "Kriimes" read "Kramer." 
II, notCy for "seems" read "seem." 
S,for "Bishop" read "Archbishop." 

3 from bottom t for "Improved by S." read "Revised and Improved 
by Thomas." 
1. a /rom bottom, after "Revised" add "and improved." 



Burnet has a place to himself in English historical 
literature, midway between the historians proper and the 
writers of memoirs. He belongs to both groups, for he 
attempted first to tell the story of a portion of the past from 
written records and afterwards to tell the story of the age 
in which he lived from his own reminiscences and the 
recollections of others. Posterity sets most value on 
Burnet as the narrator of contemporary history, but that 
should not make us forget that he began as a professional 
historian and that his own age rated him highest in that 
capacity. It is partly to Burnet's experience in writing 
the history of the past that the value of his memoirs of his 
own time is due. He had learnt to appreciate the relative 
importance of events by writing history as he had learned 
to appreciate and describe character by writing biography. 
His early writings possess an intrinsic value of their own, 
and an examination of their characteristics throws light on 
the character of his most lasting achievement, the History 
of My Own Time. For both reasons they deserve study. 

Burnet's first historical work was the Memoirs of the 
Lives and Actions of James and William Dukes of 
Hamilton^, The book was rather a history of the times of 
the two dukes than their biographies. In the catalogue of 
books printed and published in Easter Term, 1678, it stands 
on the next page to an announcement of the fourth edition 

^ See pp. 98, 115, \^o post. 

xii Introduction 

of Spottiswoode's History of the Church and State of 
/ Scotland. Originally it was designed to be a continuation 
of Spottiswoode's work, and it is said that the title-page of 
some copies of the first edition actually described it as the 
second volume of Spottiswoode. In the introduction 
prefixed to the Lives Burnet set forth at length his views 
on the function of the historian and the qualities which he 
should possess. Some histories, he said, were nothing but 
romances ; full of great and palpable errors because their 
authors '' lived out of business," and took too many things 
upon trust Others were full of slanders and lies. There 
was "such foul dealing in the histories of our own time" that 
people had learnt to suspect histories of past times, and to 
regard all other writings of that nature as equally untrust- 
worthy. In reality only two classes of historians deserved 
credit First, those who had helped to make history. 
•'Of all men those who have been themselves engaged in 
affairs are the fittest to write history, as knowing best how 
matters were designed and carried on." Secondly those 
who wrote with authentic documents at their disposal. 
" Those that have had the perusal of the cabinets of great 
" ministers, and of public records, are the best qualified for 
'* giving the world a true information of affairs." 

Burnet himself belonged to the second class. He had 
been given free access to the abundant and important 
correspondence of the first Duke of Hamilton — a corre- 
spondence which no previous English historian had seen, 
and .one full of revelations about the policy of the late 
King and the origin of the civil troubles in England and 
Scotland. At first he intended merely to extract the in- 
formation the letters contained and to summarise the results. 
Afterwards Sir Robert Moray persuaded him to adopt a 
different method. He "gave me," says Burnet, "such 
"reasons to change the whole work, and to insert most of 
"the papers at their full length, that prevailed on me to 

Introduction xiii 

•'do it." The reason Burnet gives is that "the common \ 
"failings of historians have in this last age made people \ 
'Mesirous to see papers, records, and letters published dt / 
" their full length." The public in short wanted authentic 
documents instead of narrative of very dubious value, and 
the reception accorded to the first volume of Rushworth's \ 
Collections, published in 1659, had shown how thirsty people 
were to learn the truth about the late revolution. Dull 
though that book may seem to us now it was full of 
interest then, and to study it became an indisputable part 
of every gentleman's political education. Pepys, who bought 
a copy of the volume in November, 1663, read it with 
avidity. " So to my office writing letters," says his Diary 
under December 26, 1663, "and then to read and make 
'' an end of Rush worth, which I did, and do say it is a book 
" the most worth reading for a man of my condition, or any 
" man that hopes to come to any publique condition in the 
"world, that I do know." 

Burnet's book was welcomed for the same reason, but 
it was a great deal more than a mere collection of documents 
like Rushworth's : it was the first political biography of the 
modem type, combining a narrative of a man's life with 
a selection from his letters, so the novelty of the form 
added to the attractions of the matter. 

Though the materials on which Burnet based his work 
made it infinitely superior to the productions of the 
"scribbling historians" he condemns in his preface, he 
did not exclusively rely on the Hamilton Papers. Where 
they failed him he sought and obtained information from 
Hamilton's officers, as for instance Sir James Turner, who 
contributed an account of the Preston campaign, and from 
other "persons of great worth and honour." Burnet also 
says that he owed some of his knowledge of the time to his 
father, whose conversations had given him "a great deal 
"more of the truth of these affairs than is generally known." 

xiv Introduction 

Accordingly the Lives of the Hamiltons at once became 
an authority, as indeed it deserved. Sir Robert Moray, 
charmed with the result of his advice, declared that he *' did 
" not think there was a truer history writ since the apostles 
" days*." As it was originally written it was too true, or at 
least too frank. The long delay in the publication of the 
book was due to this. The dedication is dated 2 1 October, 
1673, the warrant for a license 3 November, 1673, ^^^ ^^ 
title-page 1677, but the book is not advertised in the Term 
Catalogue as published until Easter Term, 1678*. Political 
reasons, such as the quarrel between the third Duke of 
Hamilton and Lauderdale, no doubt contributed to hinder 
publication, for from November, 1673, Lauderdale became 
Burnet's enemy*. But there was much in the book which 
it must have seemed doubtful policy to print when the 
questions touched were so closely connected with existing 
political controversies. 

Charles II was willing to admit a certain amount of 
freedom of speech. When Burnet represented that he 
would be obliged to show the faults of some of his father s 
ministers, the King said that **such things were unavoidable 
" in a history and therefore he allowed me to tell the truth 
''freely*." Charles read parts of the Memoirs himself, 
''particularly," says Burnet, "the account I give of the ill- 
" conduct of the bishops, that occasioned the beginning of 
"the wars; and told me that he was well pleased with it'." 
The King's ministers seem to have been less easy to satisfy, 
and the MS. of the Memoirs (now in the British Museum) 
shows signs of many insertions and many omissions'. Burnet 

* Own Time^ I. 27. 

' Arbcr, Term CatalogiUs^ l. 312 ; Co/. State Papers Dom. 1673-5, p. 4. 

* p. iiZ post, * Preface, p. 15. * Own Time^ i. 356. 

' Add. MS. 33, 259. See an article by Mr Robert Dewar entitled '^ Burnet on 
the Scottish Troubles " in the Scottish Historical Review for Jiily, 1907, pp. 384- 
398. The preface is different to the printed one, and the MS. is imperfect, ending 
in July, 1647, i.e. on p. 404 of the edition of 1852 which contains 555 pages. 

Introduction xv 

had, according to his own account, exercised considerable dis- 
cretion and reticence. ** Neither shall I tell," says a passage 
in the original preface, *' how soon it was finished, nor with 
"what caution it was considered what things concerning 
*' those times were fit to be published or what were to be 
'* suppressed'." He confesses that he " did conceal several 
"things that related to the king," and "left out some 
*• passages that were in his letters," because " in some of them 
"there was too much craft and anger*." Some of the 
passages in the manuscript were obviously omitted because 
they revealed the King's insincerity in his negotiations with 
the Covenanters in 1639. Other passages deleted referred 
to Lauderdale or Lauderdale's father. Some things Burnet 
had left out as injurious to the reputation of various noble 
houses, and when he came to relate the delivery of Charles 1 
to the English in January, 1647, he again confessed that 
"in invidious passages I have spared the memories and 
" families of the unhappy actors'." It was also desirable not 
to go into the precise nature of the treaty which Charles I 
made with the Scottish commissioners at Carisbrooke in 
December, 1647, but it is doubtful whether Burnet knew 
the whole truth about that subject, since the details of the 
agreement were not revealed until the publication of the 
second volume of Clarendon's History of tfie Rebellion in 
1703. For political reasons it was still more necessary to 
slur over the pledges which Charles II had made to the 
Scots in 1650 and 1651. No one would gather from the 
Memoirs of the Hamiltons that Charles the Second took the 
Covenant, and the brevity of the account of the events of 
those two years given in the life of the second Duke is no 
doubt due to considerations of this nature quite as much as 
to the scantiness of the papers relating to the period*. 

^ Scottish Historical Review^ iv. 598. 

* See p. 99 post, • Afimoirsy p. 397. 

^ Compare Memoirs^ pp. 529, 537, and Own Time^ i. 53, 1 10. 

B. b 

xvi Introdtiction 

Finally there was the great difficulty that Burnet had 
undertaken to eulogise both Charles I and the first Duke of 
Hamilton, which made it necessary to handle very delicately 
the causes of the breach between the two, the Duke's 
imprisonment in 1643, ^ind the King's distrust of the Duke 
even after their reconciliation in i646\ 

Yet though Burnet suppressed some passages in the 
letters he published, and omitted somp material facts, it is 
not just to charge him with dishonesty. For some of the 
suppressions and omissions the censorship to which his book 
was subjected is responsible ; the reticence obligatory upon 
a man writing about such recent political events accounts 
for others. That he was biassed in favour of the royalist 
cause is evident, but he is much fairer than most writers of 
the period, and on the whole it must be said that he told as 
much of the truth as it was possible to publish at the time 
when he wrote. 

Having learnt the difficulties which beset the writer of 
contemporary history Burnet had next to struggle with 
a new problem. In judging the History of the Reformation 
it is necessary to take into account the difficulties under 
which a 17th century historian laboured. He wrote before 
the British Museum existed, before the historical manu- 
scripts in the Bodleian were catalogued, when the State 
Papers and the Public Records were in two separate 
repositories and both collections in a state of chaos. A 
historian who attempted to base his book on unprinted 
authorities met with obstacles of every kind. Fuller, who 
undertook a similar task to Burnet, describes his own 
experience thus. *' A greater volume of general church 
*' history might be made with less time, pains, and cost : for 
^' in the making thereof, I had straw provided me to burn my 

^ The third Duke of Hamilton was evidently dissatisfied with the original 
draft of the Memoirs. He complained that it contained "great errors" and that 
Burnet was too precipitate in trying to publish it Probably however he referred 
to the account of the Preston campaign. Turner's Memoirs^ p. 254. 

Introduction xvii 

*' brick ; I mean could find what I needed in printed books. 
*' Whereas in this British Church History y I must (as well 
•'as I could) provide my own straw; and my pains have 
*' been scattered all over the land, by riding, writing, going, 
*' sending, chiding, begging, praying, and sometimes paying 
" too, to procure manuscript materials." 

Burnet met with difficulties of a similar nature. He 
was allowed, he tells us, free access to the State Paper 
Office, by a warrant which the Earl of Sunderland procured 
of the King for him. *' That office," he adds, "was first 
**set up by the Earl of Salisbury when he was Secretary of 
** State in King James's time ; which though it is a copious 
"and certain repository for those that are to write our 
*' history ever since the papers of state were laid up there, 
''yet for the former times it contains only such papers as 
"that great minister could then gather together ; so that it 
" is not so complete in the transactions that fall within the 
''time of which I writer" Burnet procured some papers 
from that source, but the privilege of access was of little 
value so long as the documents it contained were unarranged. 
When he was preparing his third volume he visited the 
office again and found it "in much better order and 
" method than it was thirty years ago when I saw it last*." 
Much more serviceable to Burnet was the great col- 
lection of manuscripts in the Cotton Library, but there his 
difficulty was to get at them. The modern researcher, 
guaranteed by two respectable householders, obtains access 
to them at the British Museum without any trouble. But 
Sir John Cotton refused Burnet admission to his library 
unless he could obtain recommendations from the Arch- 
bishop of Canterbury and one of the Secretaries of State, 
and Archbishop Sancroft declined to interfere on Burnet's 
behalf. Burnet obtained admission through one of Cotton's 
relations, and copied hard for ten days till Cotton's return 

^ Reformation, ll. 217. ' Reformation ni. 41. 


xviii InfrodticHon 

.to town again shut him out of the library. This was when 
the first volume was in preparation ; after it was published 
and had met with universal applause no more difficulties were 
put in his way\ There were other manuscripts in other 
collections of which Burnet procured copies, all duly 
enumerated and traced in Pocock's admirable edition of 
his book*. In his own words, " I laid out for MSS. and 
'* searched into all the offices." He even went so far as to 
publish an advertisement in the London Gazette asking 
people to lend him papers. " All persons that have any 
*' papers concerning the Reformation of the Church of 
" England, or of any ministers of state or clergymen during 
*' the reigns of King Edward the Sixth, Queen Mary, or 
" Queen Elizabeth, are most earnestly desired to give notice 
" of them to Mr Richard Chiswell, Bookseller, at the Rose 
"and Crown in St Paul's Churchyard, that they may be 
"perused by the author of the first part of that history 
** already extant in order to the completing of that necessary 

These documents were not simply employed to serve as 
a basis for Burnet's narrative. Imitating the method he had 
already followed in his Lives of the Hamiltons he appended 
to each volume of his text a collection of ''records/' intended 
not only to justify his statements but to inform public 
opinion and to serve future historians. Hallam praises 
Burnet's book for this particular feature. 

It "has the signal merit of having been the first in 
" England, as far as I remember, which is fortified by a large 
" appendix of documents. This though frequent in Latin» 
"had not been so usual in the modem languages*." 

Unluckily Burnet's energy and zeal in searching for 
truth was not accompanied by equal care in stating it. He 

^Reformation^ in. 19. ' Reformation^ vn. 65-122. 

; ' London Gazette^ No. 1473, Jan. i, i679-8a 
* Literature of Europe^ iv. 369. 

Introduction xix 

wrote in a hurry and his work swarms with inaccuracies 
of detail. On that point the testimony of his editor is 
emphatic and conclusive. "It is scarcely," writes Mr 
Pocock, "an exaggeration of the state of the case to say 
" that the author's dates are nearly as often wrong as right." 
In his quotation or summaries of other writers : ** It is not 
" hastily to be taken for granted that he represents the sense 
"of the author from whom he copies, for such were his 
"inaccurate habits of thought, that where there is but a 
"slight alteration in the words, there will often be some 
"change in the sense. His strong prejudices again seem 
" in some cases to have led him unconsciously to alter the 
" sense of a passage to which he is referring." The papers 
he printed had been copied in haste, and by unskilled 
transcribers, and they were also carelessly printed. In the 
three volumes of documents selected for publication " after 
"making allowance for all the alterations in the spelling 
" both of common words and proper names, there remained 
"about ten thousand downright mistakes." Yet none of 
these shortcomings seem to this austere critic to justify the 
acrimony with which Burnet's enemies assaulted his honesty. 
Quoting a crucial instance Mr Pocock remarks : " There is 
"no reason whatever to accuse Burnet of wilfully mis- 
" representing this document, yet in point of fact it was 
" copied with so many mistakes, and so large an omission, 
that it afforded a good handle for the accusation brought 
against him, of having purposely falsified documents to 
"suit his purpose.... Yet in truth nothing more is shown 
"by it, than to how great an extent an inaccurate and 
"prejudiced mind can be deceived into the belief that 
" certain facts make for its own view of a given case\" 

One proof of Burnet's honesty was his willingness to 
own and correct his blunders. When he was printing his 
second volume a clergyman sent him a number of corrections 

^ Re/omuUioH^ vil. 54, 55, 175. 

XX Introduction 

to the first. These he published at the end of the second 
volume, " being neither ashamed to confess my faults, nor 
" unwilling to acknowledge from what hand I received better 
"information. My design in writing is to discover truth 
** and to deliver it down impartially to the next age ; so I 
** should think it both a mean and criminal piece of vanity to 
"suppress this discovery of my errors\" What Burnet did 
in this case with Fulman's corrections he did later with 
those sent him by Baker and Strype. 

The candour which this procedure shows is not common 
amongst historians, and is very much to Burnet's credit 
He endeavoured to be equally candid in his general treat- 
ment of the subject, not to conceal the faults of the Reformers 
themselves and to state fairly the views of the different 
leaders and the conflicting parties. In this he was but 
partially successful, for he was neither impartial nor unpre- 
judiced, and he wrote at a moment when popular feeling in 
England was vehemently excited against the Catholics, and 
shared himself the fears and passions of the time. Never- 
theless, the author of the latest history of the Reformation 
finds it possible to praise his honesty in spite of the reserva- 
tions he is forced to make about his accuracy. "No book," 
wrote Canon Dixon, " has been more severely criticised. . . . 
" For myself, I am far from joining in the unmeasured con- 
" demnation of this work which had been pronounced by some 
" writers of authority. It should be remembered that it was 
" the first work of the nature of a general history, founded on 
"authentic records, that appeared in this country. The 
"author was very laborious, and he studied to be exact. It 
" is true that he had strong prejudices, but who is free from 
" prejudice } The question is, whether his prejudices make 
" him dishonest I do not think they do. He now and then 
" makes a downright blunder ; but it is usually one of pure 
"prejudice, being often an unwarrantable inference from 

^ Reformation^ n. 2. 

Introdtiction xxi 

" authorities fairiy given ; and he usually furnishes the 
** means of confuting himself. But he is never found giving, 
** to all appearances, the whole of a story and suppressing 
*' everything that makes against his own view. He is never y 
" found passing entirely over events that do not favour him\'' 

In judging an historical book on a great subject the 
design as well as the execution has to be taken into con- 
sideration. It is not merely accuracy in details and honesty 
we require, but some conception of the general significance 
of the events narrated and of their place in the world's 
history. Judged in this respect, Burnet's book was as much 
superior to the books of his predecessors. Fuller and Heylyn, 
as it was in knowledge and research. A recent writer does 
not hesitate to say that it marks the beginning of a new 
epoch in historical science and that Burnet's History raised 
the controversy it handled to a higher place of thought. 

"It was the first attempt to write a judicial account of 
"the English Reformation from authentic sources. The 
"point of view is frankly Protestant; but Burnet has 
" sufficient breadth of mind and sufficient confidence in his 
"own case to be above the vulgar artifices of concealment 
"and misrepresentation. He approaches his subject in a 
"philosophic spirit. The Reformation was to his mind a 
"work of providence accomplished through human and im- 
" perfect agents. There were deadly errors to be rooted 
"out and priceless truths to be recovered from oblivion. 
" But the errors were only recognised by slow degrees ; the 
"truth was long in dawning on the minds of Protestants. 
" Hence the fluctuations of opinion which delayed the pro- 
" gress of reform. Hence, too, the disagreements of reformed 
"communions on matters of speculation: there must be 
" differences when finite intellects are independently engaged 
" in the exploration of the infinite. But on all essentials the 
" Reformers were agreed ; and this is sufficient to confirm 

* Dixon, History of the Church of England^ n. 359. 


xxii Introduction 

''our faith in human reason. There is a spiritual unity 
'* among the Protestants which has more value because it is 
"more spontaneous and sincere than the formal unity of 
** Rome. Results, then, justify the Reformation. We need 
''not shrink from owning that its course was marked by 
''crimes and influenced by personal ambitions. The work 
" of Protestantism can neither be proved by vindicating nor 
" refuted by aspersing the characters of those who smoothed 
" the way for it The highest ends of Providence are always 
" brought about through natural causes, often by the hands 
"of most unworthy agents. Good is educed from evil, 
*'and many selfish wills are yoked together to fulfil a 
"purpose of which they are, at best, but half conscious. 
" Burnet, in fact, is the exponent of a new historical 
method. He is less concerned with persons than with the 
genesis of new ideas in the turmoil of events. His vindica- 
tion of reformed religion rests upon a contrast between the 
" system into which the earliest reformers were born and that 
" which was established as the consequence of their re volt \" 
Possessing all these great merits — research, honesty, and 
breadth of view — it is not surprising that the minor defects 
of Burnet's book were overlooked, and that the History of 
the Reformation became at once a popular success. The 
House of Commons publicly thanked him for the service he 
had rendered to the Protestant religion. The book was 
read not only by scholars and politicians, but by men of the 
world. The most brilliant courtier and wit of the period, 
John Wilmot, Earl of Rochester, solaced his illness by reading 
the book of the hour. "He had been entertaining himself," 
says Burnet, describing the origin of their acquaintance, "in 
" that his state of ill-health by reading the first part of the 
''History of the Reformation, with which he seemed not 
"ill pleased." 

* "Gilbert Burnet,'' a lecture by H. W. C. Davis, in Typical English 
Churchmen^ S.P.C.K., 1902, pp. 17^-4. 

Introduction xxiii 

About November, 1680, in the interval between the 

publication of the first and second volumes of the History 

of the Reformation, Burnet published Some Passages of 

ike Life and Death of the right honourable fohn Earl of 

Rochester^. The little book deserves the praise which 

Johnson bestowed upon it". Judged simply as literature, it 

is the finest thing Burnet ever wrote, and represents his 

style at its best. Historically, its value lies in the picture it 

gives us of the character and the ideas of a man who was at 

once a nobleman and a wit, and in the light it throws upon 

the life and thought of the time. As Miss Foxcroft points 

out, the dialogues between Burnet and Rochester are 

rendered with singular felicity, and they appear to be 

reproduced with singular fidelity, too. '* As far as I can 

"remember," writes Burnet, '* I have faithfully repeated the 

"substance of our arguments: I have not concealed the 

** strongest things he said to me, but though I have not 

"enlarged on all the excursions of his wit in setting them 

"off, yet I have given them their full strength as he ex- 

"pressed them, and, as far as I could recollect, have used 

" his own words." And, again: ** I do not pretend to have 

"given the formal words he said, though I have done that 

"where I could remember them. I did not take notes of 

"our discourses last winter after we parted; so I may, 

"perhaps, in the setting out of my answers to him, have 

" enlarged more fully and more regularly than I could say 

"then in such free discourses as we had. I am not so sure 

" of all I set down as said by me, as I am of all said by him 

" to me. But yet the substance of the greatest part, even 

"of that, is the same'." 

This account which Burnet gives us of his way of 
reporting Rochester's conversations is of particular interest. 
We see him learning the art and developing the method 

1 Term Catalogue, I. 417. • p. 166, post 

' Some Passages, pp. 124, 162. 

xxiv Introduction 

which he practised later to so much purpose in the History of 
My Own Time. 

A year later, in November, 1681, Burnet's Life and 
Death of Sir Matthew Hale appeared \ To it he prefixed 
a short disquisition on the principles of biographical writing. 
No part of history, said he, was more instructive and de- 
lighting than the lives of great and worthy men, but to 
the general reader biographies of heroes and princes were 
on the whole more entertaining than useful. Not only 
were their authors often too biassed by interest or resent- 
ment to write the truth, but even when such biographies 
were truthfully written they were lacking in instructiveness. 
The lives of private men were more profitable. They set 
before the eyes of the average man ** things that are more 
"imitable"; they showed him wisdom and virtue ** in such 
''plain and familiar instances as do direct him better and 
"persuade him more." Burnet's design in writing was, he 
tells us, ** to propose a pattern of heroic virtue " to the world 
in general, and to lawyers in particular, a life which they 
might take as a model, as Hale himself was said to have 
taken the life of Pomponius Atticus by Cornelius Nepos. 

One great disadvantage Burnet laboured under. He 
had not known Hale personally, though he had often 
observed him amongst the congregation in the Rolls 
chapel. "In my life I never saw so much gravity tempered 
" with that sweetness, and set off with so much vivacity as 
" appeared in his looks and behaviour, which disposed me to 
*' a veneration for him, which I never had for any with whom 
" I was not acquainted." 

He had, however, help from men whose acquaintance 
with Hale was intimate and of long standing. Robert 
Gibbon, of the Middle Temple, one of Hale s executors, and 
apparendy for a long time one of his clerks, supplied Burnet 
with memorials and reminiscences. " One of the greatest 

^ Term Catalogues^ i. 461. 

Introduction xxv 

" men of the Law," perhaps Heneage Finch, furnished an 
abstract of the character of Hale, based upon long observa- 
tion and much converse with him. This information Burnet 
employed with much skill and tact, producing a life-like 
portrait of the great lawyer. The book was plainly and 
simply written, for its object was to set Hale out **in the 
"same simplicity in which he lived." Dates are few, and 
some important biographical facts are not very exactly stated. 
Yet compared with Sprat's account of Cowley, which passed 
then as a model biography, Burnet's life is a model, for Sprat 
gives as few facts as possible and drowns them all in a flood 
of elegant verbiage. Burnet's object was not so much to 
relate a career as to describe a man, and he succeeds in 
bringing out the salient points of Hale's character with great 
distinctness. Little traits, such as the carelessness of Hale 
about his dress, his care for old horses and dogs, his 
scrupulousness about bad money and similar characteristics, 
give life and reality to the portrait, and are just the things 
which most contemporary biog^phers would have omitted 
as too trivial to mention. Contemporaries generally accepted 
it as a good portrait Roger North criticises it, alleging that 
Hale was timid and too fond of popularity, vain and too open 
to flattery, and rather scoffs at the scientific and theological 
attainments of the judge, though admitting that he was *'an 
"incomparable magistrate" and "a most excellent person." 
For the book and its author he had nothing but con- 
demnation. '* Gilbert Burnet," he said, " has pretended to 
"write his life, but wanted both information and under- 
*' standing for such an undertaking. Nay, that which he 
" intended chiefly, to touch the people with a panegyric, he 
" was not fit for, because he knew not the virtues he had fit 
**to be praised, and I should recommend to him the lives of 
" Jack Cade, Wat Tyler, or Cromwell, as characters fitter for 
*' his learning and pen to work upon than him\" 

^ Lives of the Norths^ ed. Jessopp, in. 102. 

xxvi Introduction 

Roger North litde knew when he wrote this that Burnet 
had devoted his pen to Cromwell. He began writing his 
memoirs about August, 1683, a few months after the 
publication of the life of Hale, and it was about 1687 
that he wrote the sketch of Cromwell which, in an enlarged 
form, occupies so many pages of his greatest work\ 

Burnet's History of My Own Time was the work of 
many years. Both volumes appeared posthumously, one in 
1724, the other in 1734, but the original narrative had 
been revised throughout and to a great extent rewritten. 
** I begun to write in the year 1 683. I continued in the year 
" 1 684, and ended it in the year 1 686, and have now writ it 
" all over again and ended it in August 1 703, and revised it 
"in March, 171 1^" This is Burnet's account of the com- 
position of the section narrating the reign of Charles II, 
and other parts of his work went through a similar process. 
We have therefore in the History of My Own Time some- 
thing different from most autobiographical memoirs. Such 
memoirs are generally written at the end of a man's career, 
looking back over a long period of years when memory is 
apt to confuse the outline of the landscape, and fancy to 
alter somewhat its colours. But in the case of Burnet the 
History is based upon a series of impressions written down 
soon after the events recorded, and sometimes almost at the 
moment when they happened. For instance, although the 
portion of the History dealing with the reign of James II 
did not take its present form till much later, it is throughout 
founded on a strictly contemporaneous narrative, and is 
therefore of higher authority than the portion relating to the 
reign of Charles II, which is only in part based on such 

In estimating the value of Burnet's statements we have 
the further advantage that much of the original narrative is 

^ Supplement^ pp. 229-242; Own Time, i. 65-83. 
' Own Time, i. 615. 

Introduction xxvii 

still in existence. Thanks to Miss Foxcroft the portions 
which survive have been printed and admirably edited in 
a Supplement to Burnet's History of My Own Time 
(Clarendon Press, 1902), so that a comparison of the two 
versions is easy. For Charles the Second's reig^ we have 
only a long fragment covering the period 1660 to i664,and 
some smaller fragments relating to the years 1 679-1 683. 
For the fifteen years from 1664 to 1679 there is a great 
gap in the MS. We have the whole of the first version of 
the reign of James II and three quarters of the reign of 
William III, that is, from October, 1684, just before the 
death of Charles II, to January 1696, just before the 
treaty of Ryswick. From January, 1696, to August, 1708, 
the original version is again missing, but for the period from 
1 708 to 1 7 1 3 it has been preserved. 

It is possible therefore to compare Burnet's earlier 
impressions with his later ones, to trace the development of 
his political views as they were affected by alterations in his 
own position and changes in English politics, and to see how 
the History of My Own Time gradually assumed its present 

Ranke, who was the first to attempt to compare the two 
versions, thinks the earlier one more vigorous and more 
clear, the characters /resher and truer to life; "persons and 
"events," he says, "appear more as they are," and he 
concludes by speaking of Burnet as "ruining his own work." 
Politically he describes the later version as intentionally 
more Whiggish in tone, more hostile to the Tories and to 
the clergy. Nottingham being a Tory is treated more 
harshly in the second version than the first, Marlborough 
being a Whig leader, more indulgently \ It was natural 
however that Burnet should revise his earlier estimates of 
public men by the light of their subsequent careers, and that 
time should alter his opinions on measures as well as men. 
Though it is always necessary to compare Burnet's earlier 

* Ranke, History of England^ vi. 73-77. 

xxviii Introduction 

with his later view, there is nothing discreditable to him 
in the fact that he made such changes, and it does not 
diminish the value of his History. 

The nature of the changes which Burnet made is pointed 
out by Miss Foxcroft in this biography\ and they are set 
forth at length and in detail in the introduction to her 
Supplement to Burnet". Some alterations were made in 
self-defence. Burnet suppressed for instance some indica- 
tions of his early intimacy with Lauderdale, and concealed 
the radical nature of the difference between his earlier and 
later views on the question of passive obedience*. Many 
other alterations were merely the natural consequence of 
the complete change in the scheme of the work which 
Burnet made in 1703 when he began to recast the whole 
work. In the original sketch the life of the author formed 
the thread by which the various episodes were connected, 
but he finally resolved to convert his autobiographical 
memoirs into a formal history. Clarendon in exactly the 
same way turned his life of himself into the History of the 
Rebellion, and in each case the result was the omission of a 
number of passages relating to the author himself. Burnet's 
abandonment of his original design " destroyed to a great 
" extent the unity of the work " and made his narrative less 
coherent and less orderly. Clarendon s change of plan, for 
various reasons, was not so detrimental in its literary results 
as Burnet's, but it also led to much disorder and many 
repetitions \ 

From the moment when he began to write Burnet had 
in view the ultimate publication of his memoirs. ** I must 
" begin," he wrote in 1683, "with a character of the King and 
** Duke, but I must give them at present very imperfect, 
" otherwise what I write may happen to be seized upon, and 

1 See pp. 403-4 /^j/. * Supplement, pp. xvi-xxi. 

' Supplement, p. 515. 

* See articles on Clarendon's History of the Rebellion, in the English 
Historical Review, xix. 26^ 246, 464. 

Introduction xxix 

" I know not what may be made of that ; but I will venture 
" a good deal now, and if ever I outlive them I will say the 
"rest when it will be more safe." In 1687 Burnet told the 
Earl of Middleton that if the prosecution against him in 
Scotland was not dropped he would be driven to print 
"an apology for myself, in which I will be forced to make 
"a recital of all that share I have had in affairs these 
" twenty years past ; and in which I must mention a vast 
" number of particulars which I am afraid will be displeasing 
"to his Majesty." Again, in October, 1688, when he was 
on the point of embarking for England with William of 
Orange, Burnet left instructions, in case of his death, for the 
printing of what he then termed " my secret History^'' 

The phrase is suggestive. In the preface to his Life of 
Hale, Burnet regretted that most biographers who wrote 
about heroes and princes did not or could not tell the whole 
truth. " Few have been able to imitate the pattern Suetonius 
"set the world, in writing the lives of the Roman emperors 
"with the same freedom that they led them." Apparently 
Burnet wished to write the life of Charles II with similar 
frankness, and the famous comparison of that sovereign to 
Tiberius^ seems to show that he had been reading 
Suetonius when he wrote it 

In the final version, however, Burnet had a different 
model before him. He was familiar with the best modern 
historians. In his History of the Reformation he had taken 
Paolo Sarpi as an example for imitation. Sarpi's History of 
the Council of Trent he described as "writ with as much life 
"and beauty, and authority as had ever been seen in any 
"human writing," and he styled it "that noble pattern 
"which the famous Venetian friar has given to all writers of 
"ecclesiastical history'." 

* Supplement^ pp. 47, 526 ; A Collection of Eighteen Papers^ 1689, p. 149. 

• Own Time, I. 614. 

■ History of the Reformation^ cd. Pocock, i. 581 ; 11. 355; Hi. 10. 

XXX Introduction 

Now Burnet copied De Thou\ "I have made him," he 
writes at the beginning of his autobiography, ** my pattern 
*' in writing, and as I read most of him many years ago, and 
" formed my design in writing from that great original ; so 
" after I had ended my History I read him over again, to 
''see how far I had risen up in my imitation of him, and 
'' was not a little pleased to find that, if I did not flatter 
** myself too much, I had in some degree answered my 
"design in resembling him*." It was also the example of 
De Thou which suggested to Burnet the idea of supple- 
menting the History by adding to it as an appendix a short 
life of himself. In th^ History of My Own Time, however, 
Burnet diverged in several points from his original. " I 
"have avoided," says he, "a particular recital of warlike 
"actions both in battles and sieges." Marshal Schomberg 
had advised him " not to meddle in the relation of military 
" matters," on the ground that civilian writers usually com- 
mitted great blunders when they did so*. Laying this 
advice to heart he declined to enter into the particulars 
either of the battle of Sedgemoor or that of the Boyne, and 
contented himself with stating the results. 

In the same way Burnet informs us that he did not 
endeavour to be as copious as De Thou in the relation of 
foreign affairs. Although in dealing with the wars of William 
the Third's and Anne's reigns he felt obliged to give a 
tolerably full account of European events during each year, 
it is evident that his knowledge of them was slight and 
mainly derived from newspapers. Ranke justly observes that 
" of a comprehension of the state of affairs in the world at 
"large, such as Thuanus attempted, there is in Burnet 
** scarcely the faintest trace. He keeps to the province of 
'' Scottish and English affairs, with which he unites those of 

^ Historiarum sui Temporis Libri cxxxviii ab anno 1 543 usque ad annum 1607; 
accedunt ejusdem de vita sua commentariorum Libri sex. 

' Supplement^ P* 45i* ' Own Time^ I. 49 ; cf. Supplement^ p. 165. 

Introdtiction xxxi 

** Holland and France, but only so far as they affect the 
" former, and as they came to his knowledge by staying in 
"those countries \" 

Burnet again diverged from his model in saying very little 
about "the lives and writing of learned men." The literature 
of the fifty years of English history with which he deals is 
passed over, and his references to the few great writers of 
the period he does mention are of the briefest character. 
Hobbes is mentioned as the author of ** a very wicked book 
** with a very strange title," and there a are few sentences 
setting forth the evil principles it inculcated, and their effect 
in corrupting his contemporaries. Locke is never men- 
tioned at all, and though Hoadley is praised for his con- 
futation of Filmer's Patriarcha, there is no reference to the 
more effective answer contained in Locke's Two Treatises 
of Government. Of the poets Dryden is named as a 
dramatist only, as the man who above all others debased 
the stage and demoralised the public. He is stigmatised as 
" the great master at dramatic poesy " who was **a monster 
"of immodesty and of impurity of all sorts." Marvell's 
name could hardly be omitted on account of his controversy 
with Parker; he is styled "the liveliest droll of the age, 
" who writ in a burlesque strain but with so peculiar and 
" so entertaining a conduct, that from the king down to the 
"tradesman his book was read with great pleasure*." 

Nobody would gather from these allusions that Dryden 
wrote anything besides plays, or Marvell anything but 
prose. The only sign of any appreciation of poetry on the 
part of Burnet is his praise of Paradise Lost. After relating 
Milton's escape at the Restoration the Bishop says that 
Milton lived many years afterwards, " much visited by all 
" strangers and much admired by all at home for the poems 
" he writ, though he was then blind, chiefly that of Paradise 

* Ranke, History of England^ vi. 49. 
' Own Time^ I. 187, 260, 269. 

xxxii Introduction 

** Lost, in which there is a nobleness both of contrivance and 
" execution, that though he affected to write in blank verse 
" without rithm, and made many new and rough words, yet 
" it was the beautifulest and perfectest poem that ever was 
"writ, at least in our language \" 

On the other hand, though Burnet was indifferent to the 
literature of the time in which he lived, or rather to belles 
Uttres in general, he devotes a considerable space to the 
Royal Society and incidentally to the scientific movement 
of the age. At one time he dabbled in science himself: 
** I run through some courses of chemistry which helped 
"me in my philosophical notions." At another he began 
to study mathematics, and found the subject enthralling. 
" I was much taken with them and I had such a memory 
" that I could carry on a progress of equations long without 
** pen, ink, or paper, so that I was pursued with them day 
" and night"." These things, however, were but diversions. 
The fulness with which theological and ecclesiastical con- 
troversies are treated in his pages and the space devoted to 
the different schools of religious thought and the characters 
of the great churchmen show plainly what Burnet's real 
interests were. For him the great event of the time in the 
intellectual sphere was the rise of that ** new set of men " in 
the church of the Restoration upon whom "men of narrower 
"thoughts and fiercer temper" afterwards "fastened the 
" name of Latitudinarians." He explained their position ; 
he set forth their aims and their hopes; he traced their 
influence on church and state ; that is his contribution to 
the history of English thought in the seventeenth century*. 

The aim with which Burnet wrote his History, or 
rather recast his autobiographical memoirs as a history, is 
several times explained in his pages. "My chief design in 
writing was to give a true view of men and of counsels 
leaving public transactions to gazettes and the public 

^ Own Time, 1. 163. ' Supplement, pp. 469, 489. ' Own Time, I. 1 86-191. 


Introduction xxxiii 

"historians of the times \" In another passage he insists 
still more strongly on the moral purpose which inspired 
him. *' My intention in writing was not so much to tell a 
" fine tale to the world, and to amuse them with a discovery 
" of many secrets, and of intrigues of state, to blast the memory 
" of some and to exalt others, to disgrace one party and to 
"recommend another: my chief design was better formed 
" and deeper laid : it was to give such a discovery of errors 
'* in government, and of the excesses and follies of parties, 
"as may make the next age wiser by what I tell them 
"of the last'." He seems to have thought that it would 
serve to guide the governing classes. It would undeceive 
he suggests, the "good and well-meaning" section of the 
clergy, and "deliver them from common prejudices and 
" mistaken notions " about public affairs'. It would help to 
educate the English gentry, who were worse instructed 
in England than in any other country with which Burnet 
was acquainted. He held that the study of history should 
be a necessary part of their training in order to make 
them better qualified to take part in the government of 
their country and more attached to its constitution. They 
should study it, not in abridgments, "but in the fullest 
" and most copious collections of it, that they may see to 
"the bottom what is our constitution, and what are our 
"laws, what are the methods bad princes have taken to 
" enslave us, and by what conduct we have been preserved*." 
In the last lines Burnet seems to be referring to his 
own History. But the drawback was that when the History 
appeared its veracity and its value were at once disputed. 
Many people denied that it was history. On November 15, 
1723, Dr Stratford wrote to the Earl of Oxford that he had 
just been reading "Gibby Burnet's Z^w/t?rv'." It was "a 

» Own Time, Preface. ' Own Time, 11. 633. 

» Own Time, Preface. * Own Time, il. 649. 

* MSS. of the Duke of Portland, vii. 367. 

c 2 

xxxiv IntrodticHon 

"strange rhapsody of chit-chat and lies, ill tacked together." 
In many things it was plain that the author was very 
ignorant, and much that he could have given an account 
of he had purposely omitted. About the same time John 
Potenger, in his advice to his grandson on going to the 
University warned him against reading Burnet. ** Be 
** careful of what history you read of late reigns, for it is 
** full of legend and false secret tradition, especially Burnet's, 
" which is no more to be credited than The Seven Champions 
** of Christendom^ and if you will believe me, you will never 
**be imposed on by that fallacious historian, who 

" Peccare docentes 
"Fallax historia monet: — 

** for generally what he says comes short of truth, or tells it 
"with a bad design. His characters for the most part are 
•*not according to the merits of the persons, but as they 
" pleased or displeased him. This Scotch prelate, a mere 
"father-in-law to our church, was in his nature so fiery a 
*• boute-feu, that he was not contented to disturb the peace 
" of the church or state in all king's reigns whilst he lived, 
**but has left a posthumous piece of history to seduce 
"posterity, and to disquiet the nation when he is in his 

Bolingbroke classed Burnet with party pamphleteers. 
" Even pamphlets, written on different sides and on different 
" occasions in our party disputes, and histories of no more 
" authority than pamphlets, will help you to come at truth. 
" Read them with suspicion, for they deserve to be 
"suspected; pay no regard to the epithets given nor to 
" the judgments passed ; neglect all declamation, weigh the 
"reasoning, and advert to fact. With such precautions, 
"even Burnet's history may be of some use"." 

Other critics complained that Burnet misrepresented 

* Private Memoirs of John Potenger^ 1841, p. 5, ed. C. W. Bingham. 
' Bolingbroke's Letters on the Study of History^ ed. 1870, p. 136. 

Introduction xxxv 

events in order to exaggerate his own importance. Lord 
Hervey prefaces his own memoirs with a disclaimer directed 
against his predecessors. " I leave these ecclesiastical 
'* heroes of their own romances — De Retz and Burnet — to 
" aim at that useless imaginary glory of being thought to 
** influence every considerable event they relate, and I very 
" freely declare that my part in this drama was only that of 
"the Chorus's in the ancient plays, who by constantly 
" being on the stage saw everything that was done, and 
"made their own comments upon the scene, without 
" mixing in the action or making any considerable figure 
**in the performance \'* 

Nevertheless even Burnet's contemporary opponents 
could not deny that in spite of prejudice and exaggeration 
there was much of value in the volumes they denounced. 
" Damn him," Atterbury is reported to have said, '* he 
" has told a great deal of truth, but where the devil did he 
"learn it'?" 

What discredited Burnet was his lack of discrimination : 
truth and legend were mixed together, and the better 
metal was alloyed with too much dross. He had "a 
"prodigious memory and a very indifferent judgment," 
explained Lord Dartmouth. "He was extremely partial, 
** and readily took everything for granted that he heard to 
" the prejudice of those he did not like ; which made him 
" pass for a man of less truth than he really was. I do not 
"think he desigfnedly published anything he believed 
" to be false." Afterwards Dartmouth retracted this last 
sentence, and declared that the Bishop published many 
things he must have known to be untrue, but his earlier 
verdict was the correct one*. It exactly agrees with the 
later verdict of Dr Johnson. " I do not believe " said that 

* Lord Hervey, Memoirs^ ed. 1884, 1. 3. 

' Cole's MS. quoted in Bohn's Lowndes^ I. 32a 

' Own TinUy ed. Airy, i. xxxiii. ; c£ vol. I v. p. i, ed. 1836. 

xxxvi Introduction 

sagacious critic, ^' that Burnet intentionally lied ; but he 
"was so much prejudiced that he took no pains to find out 
" the truth. He was like a man who resolves to regulate 
'* his time by a certain watch ; but will not enquire whether 
** the watch is right or wrong \" 

The capital instance of this prejudice is Burnet's 
treatment of the question of the birth of the Prince of 
Wales. Convinced by the rumours from England that 
James 1 1 and his Queen intended to palm off a supposititious 
child on the nation, he became so firmly imbued with the 
theory of fraud that he was incapable of judging the evidence 
when it was submitted to him". Other legends too, 
especially if they told against political opponents, he adopted 
with similar credulousness. 

This uncritical habit of mind much diminishes the value 
of the History of My Own TimCy since a very large portion 
of it rests on hearsay evidence. Usually he gives an 
authority for each of his stories. This fact he learnt from 
Lauderdale, that from Primrose, or Leighton, or Essex, or 
Schomberg, or Titus. Something he was told by Lord 
Holies, much he had heard from old Sir Harbottle Grim- 
stone, and a good deal from Lord Montagu and Colonel 
Stouppe. But he did not sufficiently sift the information 
he gathered from these various resources and allowed mere 
gossip not only too large a place in his narrative but too 
great an influence on his judgments of men and events. 

Nevertheless he had the inestimable advantage of 
personal acquaintance with the chief men of his times. " For 
"above thirty years" he asserted, ** I have lived in such 
" intimacy with all who have had the chief conduct of affairs, 
" and have been so much trusted, and on so many important 
''occasions employed by them, that I have been able to 
** penetrate far into the true secrets of counsels and designs *." 

* ^osw^% Johnson^ cd. Hill, il. 213. ' Sec/^i/, pp. 238, 240, 253. 

• Own Time^ Preface. 

Introdtiction xxxvii 

The ambition of playing a part in *' intrigues of state 
"and the conduct of public affairs" had for many years 
attracted him, and it was only in the latter years of his life 
that it had ceased to do so. ** I was for some years deeply 
" immersed in these, but still with hopes of reforming the 
"world, and of making mankind wiser and better; but I have 
** found that which is crooked cannot be made straight^" 

Burnet's career had really enabled him to know a great 
deal about the political history of his time, and his character 
had led him always to seek for such knowledge with singular 
pertinacity. Atterbury's surprise that he knew so much 
was unreasonable. No doubt Burnet as Hervey implies 
exaggerated his own influence and importance, but what 
he writes about affairs in which he was personally employed 
and matters which came directly under his observation is 
always trustworthy. His account of affairs in Scotland 
between the Restoration and the year 1673 has been 
subjected to minute examination in Dr Osmund Airy's 
edition of the History^ and bears the test of comparison 
with contemporary documents extremely well. Equally 
valuable in a different way are Burnet's accounts of English 
politics immediately after the Revolution, and of his earlier 
intercourse with William and Mary when he was an exile 
at the Hague. 

Bearing in mind the distinction between the parts which 
rest on personal knowledge and those which depend on 
secondary evidence, it is not difficult to determine the value 
of particular statements contained in the History ^ especially 
since for a large portion of it we have the advantage of 
being able to compare the earlier and later versions. After 
all necessary deductions have been made, it remains an 
authority of mixed quality it is true, but of primary import- 
ance. Put the whole mass into the crucible, and eliminate 
the inferior elements; the amount of true and valuable 

> Own Tinuy n. 669. 

xxxviii Introdtiction 

information left represents a high percentage. Burnet 
bears the test of comparison with the writers of memoirs 
very well. 

A comparison between Burnet and Clarendon naturally 
suggests itself. The History of the Rebellion appeared in 
1702-4. It very probably suggested to Burnet, as Miss 
Foxcroft thinks, the idea of converting his autobiographical 
narrative into a formal history. There was some resem- 
blance in the position of the two authors. Each wrote of 
men he had known and of events in which he had taken 
part. Each was prejudiced and partial, honest in intention 
but holding a brief for a particular party. But Clarendon 
played a far greater part on the political stage than Burnet, 
and wrote from a larger knowledge of affairs and a more 
intimate acquaintance with the problems of government. 
He was throughout nearer to the centre of things than 
Burnet. Part of his History is of first-rate value, part of 
very slight value. Some portions of it and those the most 
trustworthy are based on documentary evidence : some on 
recent, others on distant recollections. When Clarendon 
depends on memory alone he is much less trustworthy than 
Burnet, whose memory was at once more exact and more 

But the difference between the character of the two 
historians is more striking than the resemblance which 
exists between the substance of their works. It reveals 
itself in every word they write. Clarendon is always 
dignified ; he has a large vocabulary and a great choice of 
words. Burnet is vulgar and familiar as well as occasion- 
ally elevated ; he has no great choice of words, and repeats 
some of his phrases far too often. Clarendon's con- 
structions are sometimes involved, but Burnet's relatives 
and antecedents are frequently so mixed that it is difficult 
to determine what person is meant by some particular " he " 
or **who." Swift is never tired of commenting on the 

Introduction xxxix 

inelegancy of Burnet's expressions or the awkward con- 
struction of his sentences. " I never read so ill a style " is 
his verdict. He condemns it as "rough, full of improprieties, 
" in expressions often Scotch, and often such as are used 
"by the meanest people." When Burnet observes that 
Paradise Lost is the perfectest poem ever written, "at 
"least in our language," Swift comments "a mistake, for it 
*' is in English':' 

There is a great difference also between the long, 
sonorous, rolling periods of Clarendon, which seem a last 
echo of the Elizabethans in our literature, and the short 
disconnected sentences of Burnet. As we read what Swift 
calls his "jumping periods" we seem embarked on a rough 
choppy sea, as it might be the Channel passage. 

On the other hand when we get beyond the style and 
come to the matter there is a realism in Burnet which one 
misses in Clarendon. Clarendon is a little overpowered by 
literary conventions : the dignity of history is always with 
him : a long row of great historians, Roman or Italian, are 
before his eyes : we feel that he is consciously seeking to 
rival them, to reproduce their effects and to follow their 
rules. Certain facts must only be mentioned in the most 
roundabout fashion. When Clarendon has to speak of 
Lady Castlemaine he introduces her thus : " There was a 
" lady of youth and beauty with whom the King had lived 
"in great and notorious familiarity from the time of his 
"coming into England," and he never refers to her by 
name but always calls her vaguely "the Lady." Burnet 
on the other hand bluntly describes her as "the King's first 
"and longest mistress," and mentions not only her name 
but those of many other ladies of the same kind. It was 
not merely that the literary taste of Burnet's generation 
differed from that of Clarendon's ; Burnet preferred a 
straightforward phrase and had none of Clarendon's 

* Swift's Works^ voL x. pp. 327, 336, cd. Temple Scott. 

xl Introduction 

reticence. If one of his dramatis personam had used a broad 
jest or an indecent proverb to point an argument he did 
not hesitate to insert it in relating the incident. 

Clarendon and Burnet have a totally different way of 
telling the anecdotes with which they illustrate the character 
of the times or of the men they describe. Clarendon tells 
a story in a large, leisurely, oratorical manner, making 
almost a small epic or a little drama out of it. See for 
instance the stories of the ghost of Sir George Villiers 
and of the Kings attempt to borrow money from Lords 
Deincourtand Kingston'. Burnet's stories are little bits of 
gossip that drop naturally from his pen, with a sort of artless 
garrulity, as they used to do from his tongue ; he seems to 
tell them not so much to produce an effect, but because 
having heard or seen something of interest he cannot keep 
it to himself His writing has all the qualities of his 
conversation which, if report can be trusted, was as full of 
historical scandal as his book. "He hath told me many 
" passages not mentioned in this Historyl' says Swift'. 

For though Burnet had liberal ideas as to what might 
be published there were a few things which he thought it 
desirable not to print. White Kennet records a story 
which Burnet told in order to prove the principle that it 
was not expedient to publish everything that was true. 
"Is this story now fit to be told.*^*' he asked his hearers, 
after he had related it. "All the company stood amazed 
" and held up their hands," thus agreeing that it was not*. 
A still more amazing story recorded in Spence's Anecdotes 
on the authority of the Dean of Winchester, is omitted 
here in deference to the principle just laid down*. 

As a narrator on a large scale Clarendon is much 

1 Rebellion^ I. 89-94 ; 59-60. * Swift, IVorks, X. 329. 

« Birch, Enquiry in the share which King Charles I had in the Transactions 
of the Earl of Glamorgan^ 2nd edition, 1756, p. 372. 
^ Spence's Anecdotes^ ed. Singer, p. 329. 

Introduction xli 

superior to Burnet ; his account of the progress of a 
movement or the development of a situation is more 
coherent and more clear. But in telling an anecdote, or 
describing a scene or an interview Burnet frequently excels 
him. When Clarendon reports a conversation the person- 
ages all speak in much the same style, in the Clarendonian 
dialect in short. As Goldsmith said of Johnson, his little 
fishes talk like whales. Burnet on the other hand tries to 
give the ipsissima verba of the persons with whom he 
conversed. Even in an abridged form they talk naturally 
and in their proper character. There is more individuality 
and more life in Burnet's conversations. His pages give a 
much truer idea of what Charles the Second's talk was like 
than those which Clarendon in his account of his adminis- 
tration devotes to the same subject, and yet Clarendon 
knew Charles much better than Burnet and had spent many 
years in close association with the King. 

Burnet's characters on the other hand are admittedly 
inferior to Clarendon's. Swift says, "His characters are 
** miserably wrought, in many things mistaken, and all of 
** them detracting except of those who were friends to the 
" Presbyterians." To a certain extent the criticism is true : 
they are rough and unfinished ; often they are merely a 
bundle of characteristics and comments bound together 
anyhow. In Dryden's phrase, " he faggoted his notions as 
"they fell." Hence he often provides materials for a 
portrait painter rather than a picture. He had more observa- 
tion than insight When he notes a trait which he observed 
or records the impression which some person produced upon 
him his evidence is of the greatest value. Hence the 
superiority of the first characters of Charles H and his 
ministers contained in Burnet's original manuscript to those 
embodied in the published History. As Ranke remarks 
they "have internal truth and give proof of his power of 
"comprehending human nature." They are more vivid and 

xlii Introdtiction 

vigorous, too, for they represent his first impressions, 
unalloyed by late accretions of prejudice or legend, and 
unsophisticated by attempts to polish his style. 

One distinction between Burnet's characters and Claren- 
don's is that the former notices a number of minor particu- 
lars of every kind which Clarendon neglects or disdains. 
Clarendon's description of the exterior of the personages 
he mentions is usually vague. He tells you that Sir Harry 
Vane had "had an unusual aspect" which "made men think 
" there was somewhat in him of extraordinary," but does not 
explain what the peculiarity in Vane's look was. He 
mentions that Oliver St John "naturally had a great cloud 
" in his face " simply in order to explain the significance of 
his smile at a particular political crisis, and that Lauderdale's 
tongue was too big for his mouth in order to heighten a 
description of the effectiveness of one of his speeches \ 
Burnet piles details on details. Take his description of 
Lauderdale. "It may be expected I should be a little 
" copious in setting out his character for I knew him very 
" particularly. He made a very ill appearance; he was very 
" big; his hair was red, hanging oddly about him; his tongue 
" was too big for his mouth which made him bedew all that 
"he talked to; and his whole manner was rough and 
"boisterous, and very unfit for a court*." Burnet enumerates 
moral features in the same fashion as physical, pouring forth, 
with hardly any attempt at selection or arrangement, a 
number of traits and reminiscences, and leaving his readers 
to construct a character from a catalogue of characteristics. 

Clarendon's characters on the other hand are works of 
art He selects and arranges the particular traits he thinks 
most significant as indications or illustrations of character. 
Instead of individualising his personages by noting the little 
peculiarities which differentiated them from other men he 

^ Clarendon, Rebellion^ ll. 78, III. 34 ; Continuation of Life ^ 105. 
* Own Time^ I. loi. 

Introduction xliii 

seems to endeavour to generalise, and to reduce them all to 
certain universal types. 

In reading the History of the Rebellion one is con- 
tinually reminded of the fact that the description of 
imaginary types of character was a popular literary exercise 
in Clarendon's day. Burnet's rough sketches, inferior 
though they may be as artistic compositions, have an 
individuality which Clarendon's finished portraits sometimes 
lack. But as a rule he is more convincing when he gives a 
glimpse of a character rather than a full length picture, and 
sometimes hits in a sentence what he misses in a paragraph. 
He rises highest when he writes from his heart, as in his 
account of Archbishop Leighton. *' I bear still," he says, 
" the greatest admiration for the memory of that man than 
** I do to any person," and the sincerity of this feeling 
inspires and elevates the pages he devotes to the representa- 
tion of his friend. 

In the latter half of the History of My Own Time 
William and Mary are the central figures. Burnet's narra- 
tive makes a fresh start when they come upon the stage, 
and flags after they leave it. We owe much to the chance 
which brought his wandering steps to the Hague in 1686, 
and so associated him with the Prince in his expedition to 
England. Anecdotes, impressions, and records of conver- 
sation acquire a double value when they reveal to us one of 
the greatest men of the age at the crisis of his career, and 
light up one of the turning points in English history. 
Burnet draws both William and Mary with convincing 
truthfulness. Of the two he understood Mary better. For 
her he cherished a feeling which was a mixture of affection^ 
loyalty, and admiration. " I never admired any as I 
** admired her " he declared in the History, and the fervid 
Essay on the Memory of the Late Queen should be read side 
by side with the briefer and better known commemoration 
in his account of the reign of William and Mary. For 
William, Burnet's attachment was political rather than 

xliv Introduction 

personal; changes in the situation of English politics, in the 
policy of the King, and in the relations of the bishop and 
his master influenced Burnet's judgment as an historian. 
The character of William which Burnet wrote in 1686 is 
far more favourable than that written in 1 702, but the main 
features are the same, and the final estimate if less 
enthusiastic is just and acute. For however they differed 
William remained throughout in Burnet's eyes **a glorious 
"instrument raised up by God" to redeem the civil and 
religious liberties of Englishmen, though he became more 
sensible of the imperfections of the instrument, and more 

This question of characterisation is more important than 
it seems. The great difference between historical writers 
of the 1 7th century and those of our own day lies in their 
varying conceptions of the relative importance of personal 
and general causes. Clarendon, for instance, has hardly 
any conception of the working of general causes in 
history. He mentions indeed the '* immediate finger 
" and wrath of God " as one of the causes of the revolu- 
tions he undertakes to relate, and vaguely alludes to 
" the natural causes and means which have usually attended 
"kingdoms swollen with long plenty, pride, and excess." 
These, however, are but formal and perfunctory prefaces ; 
as soon as he gets to work on the story of events he 
attributes everything to the action of particular persons. 
For him to know the chief actors is to know the causes of 
things, and he seeks to make them known in order that his 
readers may see '* the pride of this man, the popularity of 
" that, the levity of one, the morosity of another, the spirit of 
" craft and subtlety in some and the rude and unpolished 
" integrity of others. . .like so many atoms contributing jointly 
"to this mass of confusion\" Motives which influenced 
masses of men escape his appreciation, and the History of 
the Rebellion is accordingly an account of the Puritan 

* History 0/ the Rebellion^ i. 2, 4. 

Introduction xlv 

Revolution which is unintelligible because the part played 
by Puritanism is misunderstood or omitted altogether. 

Burnet's task like Clarendon's was to write the history 
of a political revolution which was mainly due to religious 
causes, and he was better qualified for it than Clarendon 
because he understood better the significance of the questions 
at issue. Wider theological sympathies, a natural breadth 
of view, and the character of his historical studies enabled 
him to appreciate the standpoint of different sections of 
Protestants, to realise the difficulties with which English 
statesmen had to deal, and to perceive their solution. He I 
succeeds in making the Revolution of 1688 intelligible 
while Clarendon leaves that of 1649 unexplained. ^_; 

At the same time Burnet's conception of general causes ) 
is consistently theological. It was very clear to him that 
the course of events was providentially ordered, and that it 
was part of the business of an historian to vindicate the ways 
of God to man. In the events of 1688 he saw plain evidence 
of divine intervention. One proof was the little damage 
whith William's fleet suffered when it was driven back at 
first setting out. This was " a mark of God's great care 
" of us, who though he had not changed the course of the 
"winds and the seas in our favour, yet had preserved us 
"while we were in such apparent danger beyond what 
" could have been imagined." So too when ** a Protestant 
" wind " facilitated the prosperous passage of William's fleet, 
kept that of James' in harbour, and then shifting to the west 
frustrated pursuit, Burnet says " I never found a disposition 
**to superstition in my temper : I was rather inclined to be 
'* philosophical upon all occasions. Yet I must confess, that 
"this strange ordering of the winds and seasons, just to 
"change as our affairs required it, could not but make deep 
" impressions upon me, as well as on all that observed it." 
Later still, in the wars which followed the Revolution, 
Burnet commented on the recurrence of similar phenomena. 

xlvi Introduction 

A sudden fog preserved a fleet of British merchantmen 
from French cruisers, an unusually dry autumn facilitated 
Marlborough's sieges, and so on. " I know/' he comments, 
"that it is not possible to determine when such accidents 
'* rise from a chain of second causes in the course of nature, 
" and when they are directed by a special providence : but 
*' my mind has always carried me so strongly to acknowledge 
" the latter that I love to set these reflections in the way of 
" others, that they may consider them with the same serious 
"attention that I feel in myself." 

"^ A larger survey of the past seemed to furnish ground 
for Burnet's faith. What struck him when he looked back 
on the history of Europe since the Reformation was the 
progress of the Protestant religion and the vicissitudes 
.^ough which it had passed. Five times in the course of 
the last two centuries European Protestantism had been in 
great peril, almost, it seemed to him, in danger of extinc- 
tion ; yet at each crisis Providence had raised up some one to 
deliver it, — Maurice of Saxony, Queen Elizabeth, Gustavus 
Adolphus, and last of all William of Orange*. The fifth 
crisis, of which William was the hero, was " of the longest 
"continuance." It had begun in 1672, or at the latest in 
1685, and it was not over yet "We are yet in the 
"agitations of it," nor did it end till the accession of 
George I secured a Protestant line of kings for England. 
Burnet's History of My Own Time is an account of 
England during this fifth crisis, and this conception of the 
meaning of events and of their cause links his later book 
to his History of the Reformation and gives unity to his 
historical writings. 


1 Own Time^ I. 783, 789 ; ll. 388, 512. 

^ For the five crises, which Burnet computes somewhat differently in the 
different recensions of his History^ see Supplement^ pp. 172-177, and Own Time^ 
1. 310-321, 655. 


1643— 1674. 

-• - - 


• •• 


• • 

Gilbert Burnet belonged to an ancient and honourable 
Scottish family. It is probable that the Burnetts of Leys 
were of Anglo-Saxon origin, and that an ancestor of theiiy' 
coming from England in the train of David I settled in 
Roxburghshire. It is beyond question that Alexander 
Burnard aided King Robert the Bruce, and that the 
grateful king some six years after the battle of Bannockbum 
granted to " his beloved and trusty adherent " certain lands 
within the forest of Drum on the borders of Aberdeen 
and Kincardineshire. The house of Alexander Burnard 
was built on an island in the loch of Banchory, and his 
descendants remain in the parish of Banchory-Ternan 
to this day, the present Sir Thomas Burnett being the 
24th laird and the 12th Baronet of Leys. 

The Burnetts were not only able to keep what they had 
gained but to add to it, the family history for its first three 
centuries on Dee-side being a record of ever-increasing 
prosperity. In 1488 Alexander Burnet received a charter 
uniting all his lands into one free barony. But the most 
remarkable addition to the estates occurred in the lifetime 
of the ninth laird, also an Alexander, and is of great interest 
as shewing how the friends of the Roman Catholic Church 
as well as the reforming lords acquired Church lands. He 
married about 1540 Janet, the natural daughter of Pre- 
bendary Hamilton. The bride was well-dowered with the 
property of the Church, to which Cardinal Beaton, the abbot 
of Arbroath, greatly added "by granting under the seal of 
" the monastery to Alexander Burnet and his heirs-male a 
" charter of the various lands within the regality of Arbroath 

4 Family, Home4ife and Training [ch.i 

" and barony of Banchory-Ternan* which he or the members 
' of his family had held in lease." There is no doubt that 
this Alexander Burnet, whp.died in 1574, remained true to 
the Church which had beeniso generous to him. But it is 
certain that his grandspn/also named Alexander, adopted 
i the reformed faith. . HefiJid a large family and he fervently 
I desired to give his^^pKs a liberal education. Two of them 
became emineofej'physicians, a third was a minister of the 
Church of Scxrtlajld, a fourth — the most famous of all and to 
us the mpst lopehesting, because it was probably owing to his 
\,' celebrity 'that the future Bishop received his name — was 
.,i-A Gilb^/'Professor of Philosophy at Basel and Montauban. 
^ :^' He..wia3 held in such esteem that a national synod of the 
\V^ , Hcot&stants of France appointed his philosophical writings to 

^ /••.'be printed at the expense of the Church. But he died before 
''•. Tiis manuscripts were arranged, and only his book of ethics 
was printed. The eldest of the brothers, Alexander, suc- 
ceeded to the estates in 1578. He was a man of singularly 
moderate views, but in his later days he evidently supported 
James VI in his Episcopal policy, for we find him appointed 
as one of the commissioners '' to see that constant moderators 
" be received by the presbyteries." His second son Thomas 
succeeded him in 16 19 and became the first baronet of the 
family in 1626. He was one of the leading covenanters of 
Aberdeenshire, but won the respect of both parties by his 
moderation. His third son James, the ancestor of the 
famous and eccentric Lord Monboddo, also took the side of 
the Covenant in the memorable struggle. The fourth 
(third surviving) son was Robert Burnet, the father of 
Gilbert, Bishop of Salisbury, of whom we must speak at 
greater length. He was born in 1592, a memorable year in 
the ecclesiastical annals of Scotland, for during its course 
the Act was passed which has been described as the Magna 
Charta of the Scottish Church. The Tulchan Episcopate 
was brought to an end and Presbyterianism established. 
Presbytery seemed triumphant all along the line. But 
the victory was not final. It ushered in that important 

^ It is curious that the two chief families in this Dee-side parish — the 
Burnetts of Leys and the Douglases of Tilwhilly — should each have given a 
prelate to the See of Salisbury. Bishop Douglas was also connecteid with 
Saltoun, his grandfather having been minister of the parish. 

1574-1622] Character of Robert Burnet 5 

struggle which decided the form of the government of the 
Church of Scotland and has left such indelible marks on 
the national life, thought, and character. And much of the 
interest and the pathos in the lives of Robert Burnet and 
his more distinguished son lie in the fact that both these 
good and sincerely religious men were stout upholders of 
the cause that lost. 

Of Robert Burnet's early career little is known. He 
adopted the legal profession, and we find him in France in 
161 1 prosecuting his studies but bitterly complaining about 
his father's parsimony. 

"My father deals ouer hardlie w* me," he writes, "and haid 
" rather I neglected my studies than that I cost some siller 
*' til him in imploying my tyme weel. Gif he continue in that 
" resolution he will compel me to take ane resolution that 
"will not please him and bind myself for ever in France 
"qlk I haid done or now haid not my uncle impesched me." 

The elder Burnet evidently wished his son to get a 
liberal education at the minimum of cost. The difficulty, 
however, was surmounted and the threat in the letter 
unfulfilled, for Robert Burnet returned to Scotland and was 
admitted to the Bar in 1 6 1 7. Three years later he married 
Beatrix Maule, who died in 1622, leaving him a daughter, by 
name Bertha. 

As a lawyer his acquirements were solid rather than 
brilliant. He was, his son informs us, "learned in his 
" profession, but did not rise up to the first form in practice. 
" His judgment was good, but he had not a lively imagination 
*' nor a ready expression, and his abilities were depressed by 
"his excessive modesty.... When he found a cause morally 
" unjust he would not plead in it, but pressed his client to 
" consider his conscience more than his interest, in which he 
" often succeeded, for he spoke with great authority on these 
"occasions.... He was always ready to plead the causes of 
" the poor, and instead of taking fees from them he supplied 
"such as he saw were unjustly oppressed very liberally. 
"He never took any fee from a clergyman who sued for 
"the rights of his Church... and he told me the full half of 
"his practice went for charity or for friendship." 

Such rules however do not seem to have kept him from 
being successful in his profession, for we find him as an 

6 Family, Home4ife and Training • [ch.i 

advocate of seventeen years' standing, the possessor of 
two landed estates, from one of which, Crimond, in Aberdeen- 
shire, he afterwards took his territorial designation. 

Of more interest to us than the success of the lawyer is 
the character of the man, which all the contemporary writers 
who mention him describe as of singular excellence. He 
seems to have been a quiet, peace-loving, God-fearing man, 
gentle, but by no means weak, for he had a large share of 
that *'dourness" which has been reckoned a characteristic 
of his nation. His gentle nature shrank from all bitter 
disputes, but he shewed, as we shall see, that he could suffer 
for conscience' sake in circumstances where moral courage 
of a very high order was required. 

In Church matters, which were the chief problem of 
the day, he was an Episcopalian of a very moderate kind. 
** He preferred Episcopacy (his son tells us) to all other 
"forms of government, and thought it was begun in the 
** apostles' time, yet he did not think it so necessary but that 
" he could live under another form, for indeed his principle 
" with relation to Church government was Erastian." 

In fact, like his friends Sir Robert Moray and Bishop 
Leighton, he may be described as a fine type of those 
Erastian pietists of the seventeenth century who were more 
numerous and exercised a greater influence on the religious 
history of their country than has generally been supposed. 

At this point it is necessary to explain the change that 
had taken place in the Scottish Church. We have seen 
that Presbyterianism had been established in 1 592, the year 
of Robert Burnet's birth. But when James VI became 
king of England he resolutely set himself to assimilate the 
ecclesiastical governments of the two national Churches, and 
partly succeeded. The leading Presbyterian ministers who 
opposed the king s policy were banished, and bishops were 
introduced into the Scottish Church. It was probably the 
intention of the king to assimilate the ritual of the Churches 
also, but the temper in which the nation received the Five 
Articles of Perth convinced even James of the danger of 
proceeding further. The result was a curious compromise. 
The Church government now established might fairly be 
described as bishops superimposed on Presbytery. The 
bishops ordained the ministers, but only with the assistance 

1 592-1624] The Johnstons 7 

of ministers appointed to act with them. They presided 
over the Church Courts ; but the four Presbyterian Courts, 
General Assembly, Synod, Presbytery, and Kirk-Session 
were still sanctioned by law. A strong party in the Church 
was in favour of bishops, but few regarded them as 
essential. In fact the doctrinal standard of the Church, the 
Scots Confession, declared ''that apostolic succession through 
"bishops was not a mark of the Church." One point it 
is well to note. There was no schism. The Church of 
Scotland remained as it had been from the Reforma- 
tion, one and undivided. **The Presbyterians," a Church 
historian says, "continued in the Church without making 
" secession or separation though they struggled against her 

We have seen that Robert Burnet's sympathies were 
with Episcopacy. This is not surprising. His- father had 
supported the policy of King James. He came from 
Aberdeenshire, the district in Scotland most favourable to 
Episcopacy. Two of his most intimate friends were 
Patrick Forbes the Bishop of Aberdeen, and William Forbes 
afterwards Bishop of Edinburgh. In politics too he was 
strongly attached to the king's party. That his friends did 
not belong to one party, however, is clearly shewn by the 
step he took seven years after his return from the Continent. 
The history of the family to which Rachel Johnston, his 
second wife, belonged, presents a strong contrast to the 
peace-loving, law-abiding Burnets. The Johnstons of 
Annandale were one of the most famous and lawless of the 
Border clans. In the wars against England they were 
always to be depended on, at other times they gave to their 
king such obedience as they saw fit. Even so late as 
1593, the year after Robert Burnet was born, they defeated 
and slew the King's Warden in the battle of Dryfe Sands. 
If there is anything in heredity, a descendant of this race 
was not likely to favour the doctrine of the Divine right 
of kings. With this famous Border battle, however, 
ArchibSd Johnston, the grandfather of Rachel, had 
nothing to do. He had left Annandale many years before 
and had become a successful merchant in Edinburgh, 
where he married a wealthy heiress, Rachel Arnot. She 
was the daughter of Sir John Arnot, Lord Provost of 

8 Family, Home-life and Training [ch.i 

Edinburgh, and distinguished for her devotion to the 
Presbyterian cause. The eldest son of this marriage was 
James Johnston, who married Elizabeth, daughter of Sir 
Thomas Craig, a famous Scotch lawyer and a most zealous 
Presbyterian. The third generation kept true to the 
family traditions. They united the strength of the 
Johnstons with the Presbyterian zeal of the Amots and 
Craigs. There were no more sturdy champions of Presby- 
terianism or more consistent opponents of the absolutism of 
the king than Rachel Johnston and her younger brother 
Sir Archibald Johnston, Lord Warriston, the framer of the 
National League and Covenant. 

Rachel Johnston is a most interesting type of a High 
Church Presbyterian lady of the 17th century. She was 
fearless even to rashness in defence of the cause she loved, 
sincerely religious, but intolerant and narrow, a fanatical 
believer in the Divine right of Presbytery. But withal 
she was a true woman, who proved herself an affectionate 
wife and devoted mother. 

Twenty-seven years afterwards when Robert Burnet 
made his will he speaks of her thus : 

'* Item, I leave my well-beloved spouse (of whose 
'carriage I have had so long proof and experience and 
' of whom I have had so great comfort blessed be God for 
' it) my only Executrix. Item, having had the experience of 
' the extraordinary motherly care and affection that my said 
' spouse carries to her children I leave her tutrix Testamen- 
' trix to my said sons, and straitly charge and command my 

* said sons to give full and absolute obedience to their said 

* mother in all their worldly affairs, as to myself if I were in 
' life, if they would wish the blessing of God to be upon them, 
' and ordain them to remain still with their said mother as 
' long as they remain at school." 

These words, written in 1651 after the troublous period 
of the Covenants, are strong testimony of an enduring 
affection between husband and wife which many trials and 
much difference of opinion had failed to overthrow. 

At the time of the marriage, however, the feeling 
between the ecclesiastical parties was not so bitter as it 
afterwards became. Episcopacy and Presbytery were con- 
sidered by many to be compatible. Presbyterians and 

1624-1637] The National League and Covenant 9 

Episcopalians worshipped in the same church side by side. 
But neither party was satisfied and ill-feeling was steadily 
growing. During the next thirteen years eight children 
were bom to Robert Burnet, and the witnesses of their 
baptisms shew clearly how he fraternised with both 
parties. Among the names we find John Earl of 
Lauderdale, Sir James Skene of Curriehill, and, strangest 
of all, in 1636 the names of Thomas Sydserf, Bishop of 
Galloway, and Archibald Johnston stand side by side. It was 
perhaps the last time these two men met in friendship, for 
on July 23rd, 1637, occurred the historic riot in St Giles's 
Cathedral occasioned by King Charles I attempting to 
force Laud's Liturgy on the unwilling Scottish Church. 
The long-simmering discontent with the policy of the king 
and the people's hatred of the bishops broke into open 
revolt. The struggle between Episcopacy and Presbytery 
entered on a new phase. The day of compromise was 
over, the war of extermination had begun. It was a 
national rising. All classes took part in it : never had 
Scotland been so unanimous. It is true that the nobles and 
gentry had been deeply offended by the Act of Revocation 
with regard to the Church lands which the king had forced 
on Parliament, but it is absurd to suggest that the people 
would have stirred for such a cause. The driving force 
of the revolution was a religious one. The people were 
stubbornly opposed to the king's Church policy and were 
determined to submit no longer to his despotic dictation. 
The nation was united in opposing absolutism in Church 
and State. T In this crisis Archibald Johnston, the brother- 
in-law of Burnet, leaped into prominence. The leaders of 
the movement realising the danger of their action sought 

to bind the nation together in the National I , ^gfigue and 

Covenant- in the drawing up of which Johnston took a 
gfreST^part. The great majority of the people eagerly 
signed the Covenant, and pressure was brought to bear 
upon those who were unwilling. Ro^grt^JBurnet was one 
of the minority. His position was a trying one. His two 
brothers, Tiis wife and her relatives were all strong supporters 
of the Covenant He himself had been so outspoken in 
; j his criticism of the conduct of some of the bishops that he 
had been r^;arded as a Puritan. But he was firmly opposed , 


lo Family, Home4ife and Training [ch.i 

to the abolition of Episcopacy and strongly disapproved of 
the armed resistance of the nation. 

**Not that he thought that it was not lawful to rise in 

" arms when the king broke the laws, for he always espoused 

'' " Barclay and Grotius' notions in that matter, but he 

*' thought that was not the case, but that the king's authority 

"was invaded against law." 

The great strength of the man revealed itself. He 
firmly refused to sign the Covenant, the only man of note 
in Edinburgh who dared to do so. The consequence was 
that he was forced to give up his legal practice, and twice 
between the years 1637-43 he had to take refuge on the 
Continent Probably he returned in 1641 at the time of 
the king's visit. The bishops had been deposed, Presby- 
terianism had been reestablished, and honours were being 
showered upon the leaders of the Covenant Among these 
was Burnet's brother-in-law, who was knighted and promoted 
to the judicial Bench with the title of Lord Warriston. 

The rise of this able lawyer had indeed been remark- 
able. Though only thirty years of age Archibald 
Johnston was one of the best known men in Scotland. 
His legal knowledge and skill had been invaluable to the 
Covenanting party. No one had been more zealous for the 
cause. A very religious man, he is a striking example of 
the extreme High Church Presbyterians of his day with all 
their strength and weakness. Strong, but very narrow, pure 
in life, sincere and devout, praying five or six hours each 
day, he was also intolerant and ready to unchurch and 
excommunicate all who differed from him even in the 
external forms of religion. 

"He had," as his nephew tells us, "the temper of an 
" inquisitor in him. He did overdrive all their counsels and 
" was the chief instrument of the ruin of his party by the 
" fury and cruelty of the proceedings in which he was always 
"the principal leader. But after all that appeared in his 
" public actions he was a sincere and self-denying enthusiast, 
" and though he had twelve children he never considered his 
" family but was generous and charitable." 

No man was more opposed to Warriston's political 
opinions than Robert Burnet, yet each respected the other. 
Events were now about to take place which strained but 

1637-1643] Birth of Gilbert Burnet 1 1 

did not break their friendship. In 1642 the Civil War in 
England began. The Scotch would gladly have remained 
neutral. But unfortunately for the cause of Charles the 
great majority of the Scottish people did not trust him, and 
feared that if he were victorious he would immediately 
revoke the concessions which had been wrung from him by 
force. Alarmed therefore at the course of the war, for the 
arms of Charles were everywhere victorious, the Church 
party listened with favour to the earnest appeal of the 

^ English Parliament. The result was the Solemn League 

/ and Covenant. 

It was at this troubled period in Scottish history that 

\ the eleventh and youngest child of Robert Burnet was 

• bom, Sept. i8th, 1643, and was baptized three days later by 

\ the name of Gilbert. His uncle Sir Archibald Johnston was 

I one. of the witnesses. It could not have been an occasion 

of unmixed joy, for everyone present must have known that 

there was every likelihood of Robert Burnet being again 

driven into exile. On the 25th of Sept. 1643, exactly one 

week after the birth of Gilbert, the English Parliament 

accepted the Solemn League and Covenant, which assured 

them of the assistance of a Scotch army but bound them 

"to seek the preservation of the Reformed Religion in 

'* Scotland and the Reformation of Religion in England and 

** Ireland in doctrine, worship and government according to 

" tlie Word of God and the example of the best Reformed 


This was followed in Scotland on Oct. 22 nd by an 
ordinance of the Committee of Estates enforcing (on pain 
of excommunication and forfeiture of goods) the signing of 
the Solemn League and Covenant. 

Robert Burnet firmly declined to sign it. He main- 
tained that there was no justification for the Covenanters 
taking up arms against their lawful king in a quarrel 
concerning the liberties and privileges of the English 
Parliament, of the nature of which most Scotsmen were 
ignorant. He refused to sign a Covenant which had not the 
consent of " the lawful Supreme Magistrate," which forced 
the conscience of some " not in the substance of religion, 
" but * in circumstantial points of Church government." 
"To impose on men's consciences," he says, "covenants 

12 Family, Home-life and Training [ch.i 

" containing duties not only not expressly commanded in the 
" Word of God but... outside if not contrary thereto and that 
'' under pain of excommunication seems hard to weak and 
"tender consciences and smells not a little of the anti- 
** christian tyranny of Rome." Such conscientious objections 
received but scant consideration from the prevailing party, 
and the stern but upright Warriston " thought it a crime to 
" shew his brother-in-law any other favour but to suffer him 
" to go and live beyond the sea." 

Robert Burnet retired to Paris, where he met among 
others Grotius, whose views on theology and law he largely 
adopted. There also he met his old friend Sydserf, the 
deposed Bishop of Galloway. Warriston having heard of 
this renewed intimacy wrote warning his brother-in-law 
against having any dealings with an excommunicated 
person. Burnet replied in a most spirited manner, firmly 
refusing to break off a friendship of 27 years, declaring 
that he had never heard of a greater injustice than the 
excommunication of his friend. 

" Alas, brother ! what would you be at, now when you 
" have beggared him and chased him by club law out of the 
" country ? Would you have him reduced to despair, and will 
" you exact that every man, yea against his conscience, shall 
"approve your deeds how unjust soever, yea out of the 
" country?. . . Be not too violent then," he adds, " and do as you 
" would be done to, for you know not how the world will turn 
"yet," a warning to which the subsequent fate of Warriston 
was to lend a grim significance. 

Meanwhile the first five years of Gilbert Burnet s life 
were passing in a troubled and rapidly changing scene. 
The Solemn League and Covenant did much for the 
liberties of Great Britain, but its first triumph was not in the 
land of its birth. The army sent to England turned the 
fortunes of the Civil War at Long Marston Moor. But in 
Scotland there was not that unanimity which marked the 
National League and Covenant of 1638. 

In 1644-5 Nlontrg^e, ^tn old Covenanter now on the 
other "side, c'onducted his brilliant campaigns, so useless to 
his king, so terrible for his country, till his victorious career 
was stopped and the excesses of his army terribly revenged 
at Philiphaugh. But when the Civil War ended in 

1 643- 1 649] Scots defeated at Preston 13 

England the worst troubles of Scotland began. The 
loyalty of Scotland had hitherto not been conspicuous, but 
in his darkest days the unfortunate Charles I was to find 
there his warmest friends. In both Covenants a willingness 
to support the king in his lawful rights had been plainly 
expressed, though the duty to religion had been placed 
highest. Now, when there was no danger to the latter 
principle, the Scots were to shew that their professions of 
attachment to the king's person were no mere words. The 
king was in captivity, and the danger of a darker fate had 
begun to alarm the nation. A united and enthusiastic 
Scotch army would have marched to his rescue had 
Charles agreed to accept the Solemn League and Covenant. 
But this he refused to do; worse still, he sought by a 
compromise to divide his sympathisers, in which he 
succeeded only too well. He made a secret treaty, known 
as the En g a gement, with some Scotch nobles, agreeing to 
give Presbyterian jsm a trial for three years. This satisfied 
the Scotch nobiUty and gentry who controlled Parliament, 
but not the Chiirch or the majority of the people. After 
an earnest bu^ vain endeavour to persuade the Church, 
Parliament in ipite of the protests of the General Assembly 
took its own tourse, and an army composed of impressed 
'; soldiers who ^ibhorred the service, and under the incapable 
• leadership of Hamilton, marched over the border to certain 
idefeat at Pjfeston (Aug. 19th, 1648). This defeat, regarded 
I by most Sifotsmen as a Divine judgment, placed the power 
. in the haijids of the extreme fanatical party led by Argyle 
and Wajftiston. To them was due the passing of the 
notorious and mischievous Act of Classes, which disqualified 
all " madignants " i^.e. those who had taken any part in the 
Engagbfiient) from holding office in the State or in the 

But the ascendency of the extreme Church party did 
not mean the end of the Royalist reaction, for when 
Charles I was executed Jan. 30th, 1649, the indignant Scotch 
nation at once proclaimed his son king. Assurance was 
sent to the prince in Holland that Scotland would 
unanimously support him against all foes if he would sign 
the Covenant. After some hesitation he accepted the 
terms. There is nothing stranger in history than this 

14 Family, Home4ife and Training [ch.i 

unnatural alliance. A prince who had little respect for 
religion and none whatever for morality found in the day 
of adversity his only supporters in those religious 
enthusiasts, the sternly moral Covenanters. He was 
unutterably wearied by their long religious services, and 
never forgave them for presuming to reprove the faults of 
his character. They never quite trusted him, yet with a 
pathetic loyalty they fought for the man who was to be the 
deadliest foe of the cause they loved so well. 

Charles landed in June, 1650, and Cromwell moved at 
once against Scotland. A Covenanting army, purged of 
all ** malignants " (in accordance with the Act of Classes), 
met him at Dunbar and was completely defeated. Even 
this severe blow did not crush the national spirit, but it 
deprived the extreme fanatical party led by Warriston of 
its influence. The moderate Presbyterians led by the 
able minister Robert Douglas now asserted themselves. 
They proceeded to crown Charles at Scone on Jan. i st, 1 65 1 . 
They resolved to repeal the disgraceful Act of Classes, 
which had deprived the army of its best officers at Dunbar. 
By this they earned for their party the name of Resolu- 
tioners; the members of Warriston's fanatical party being 
henceforth known as Remonstrants or Protesters, from 
i their vigorous opposition to the repeal of the Act. Finally 
an army made up of both Covenanters and Engagers, and 
under the command of David Leslie, marched into England 
and was defeated at Worcester Sept. 3rd, 1651. This was 
the close of the war. Charles was again driven into exile 
and the Scotch nation sullenly submitted to the firm rule 
of Oliver Cromwell. 

The events of this exciting period made an indelible 
impression on the young mind of Gilbert Burnet and 
exercised no little influence on his education and future 
career. His father had probably returned from exile about 
the time of the Engagement, for we find him in trouble 
with the Edinburgh Presbytery during the following year. 
For this court he drew up reasons " why he could not with 
**a safe conscience sign the League and Covenant." His 
friend Robert Douglas saved him from the consequences 
of this act by suppressing the paper, but Burnet found it 
advisable to retire for a while to Dalkeith. There he made 

i6so] The rule of Cromwell 15 

the friendship of Robert Leigh ton, minister of Newbattle, 
afterwards the well-known Archbishop of Glasgow. Natur- 
ally a consistent Royalist like Robert Burnet rejoiced in the 
coming of Charles II, and we find that he was present with 
his young son at some of those long religious services by 
which the ministers sought to impress upon the prince 
those principles his character so sadly lacked. *' I remember," 
writes the future bishop, " on one fast day there were six 
** sermons preached without intermission. I was there 
''myself and not a little weary of so tedious a service." 

Memories of the hopes and fears, the grief and dismay 
of this trying and changeful period clung to the lad. He 
tells a story, that somewhat soothed the national vanity — 
how when victory was certain the Committee of Estates (his 
uncle Warriston being a member) forced the able Covenant- 
ing general Leslie against his better judgment to leave his 
secure position on Doon Hill, and so lose the disastrous 
battle of Dunbar. He witnessed the dismay of his 
countrymen after the battle of Worcester, when they felt 
that all resistance was at an end and that they were 
conquered by the English sectaries. He heard the violent 
recriminations of the Resolutioners and Protesters, in which 
each party blamed the other for the national humiliation. 
He describes what he himself, a boy of eight years old, 
saw when Cromwell's troops entered Aberdeen under 
General Overton. 

** I remember well," he writes, **of the coming of three 
" regiments to Aberdeen. There was an order and discipline 
" and a face of gravity among them that amazed all people. 
"Most of them were Independents and Anabaptists: they 
" were all gifted men and preached as they were moved, but 
" they never disturbed the public assemblies in the churches 
"but once. They came and reproached the preacher for 
" laying to their charge things that were false, I was then 
" present. The debate grew very fierce : at last they drew 
" their swords but there was no hurt done. Yet Cromwell 
"displaced the general for not punishing this." 

The following estimate by Gilbert Burnet, a consistent 
Royalist, is at once proof of his impartiality and a singular 
tribute to the excellence of Cromwell's government. 

** There was good justice done and vice was suppressed 

1 6 Family, Home4ife and Training [ch.i 

**and punished so that we always reckon these years of 
** usurpation a time of great peace and prosperity." 

This description is perfectly true of the commerce and 
industry of the nation. The nobility however did not fare 
so well, but were in a state of bankruptcy, while in the 
Church anarchy prevailed. It was incomparably the worst 
period in the history of Scottish Presbyterianism. The 
Church was rent in twain by the fierce quarrels of the 
Resolutioners and Protesters. The General Assembly, 
the only Church Court which had sufficient power to cope 
with the evil, had been forbidden by Cromwell to meet. 
Synod and Presbytery meetings were scenes of disgraceful 
wrangling. Numberless pamphlets sown broadcast through- 
out the land embittered the disputes. Meanwhile Gilbert 
Burnet — a precocious boy — was growing up and watching 
ecclesiastical affairs. Little wonder if he formed the 
opinion from what he saw that the Presbyterian system and 
good order and discipline in the Church were incompatible. 

The years of the Commonwealth were among the 
happiest in the long life of Robert Burnet He took no 
part in public affairs, though Cromwell, acting probably on 
the advice of the English governor of Aberdeen, tried to 
induce him to accept office as a Judge of the Supreme 
Court. Knowing him to be a Royalist the Protector only 
made one stipulation "that Burnet would not act against 
*' the Government." This generous offer was wisely declined, 
Burnet ** asking for nothing but leave to live in peace and 
"quietness without the imposition of oaths and subscriptions." 
He was sixty years old in 1652 and his declining years 
were to be spent in the peace for which he had longed. It 
was little sacrifice that he had to give up the legal 
profession, for he did not like it ; and he could now enjoy the 
quiet life of a country gentleman on his estate at Crimond, 
devoting himself to the interests of his children and to 
those religious studies he so dearly loved. 

Of his mother Gilbert Burnet writes, **She was a 
"good, religious woman, but most violently engaged in the 
"Presbyterian way." 

His father, to whom he was strongly attached, he 
describes at greater length : "He was a preacher of 
" righteousness, for he catechised not only his servants but his 

1650-57] Burnet goes to Aberdeen University \y 

" tenants frequently at every Lord's Day, of which he was a 
" very strict observer : and indeed to all that came to him he 
*' commended the practice of religion and virtue with great 
"earnestness and often with many tears. He treated those 
"who differed from him in opinion with great gentleness." 
To the high character of Robert Burnet others bear ample 
testimony, and we may especially quote Dr Cockbum 
(no friend of the son), who considers it was Gilbert's 
misfortune to lose his father so early, " for the father would 
•' have been a curb to his youthful levities and extravagancies, 
" but that restraint being taken off Gilbert gave all liberty to 
"his curious, heedless and precipitant genius." 

Most of the eleven children of Robert Burnet had died 
young. Only four of them can be traced after his return from 
exile, — Rachel, who was married to Sir Thomas Nicolson, 
the King's Advocate ; Thomas, born in 1636, who afterwards 
became a well-known physician ; Robert, who was studying 
for the legal profession ; and Gilbert, who was probably the 
only one of the children much at home during the Crimond 

The chief care of Robert Burnet's retirement was the 
education of his youngest son. According to Gilbert the 
discipline was of a Spartan character. 

" My father," he says, " humbled me with much severe 
" correction, in which, how much soever I might deserve it 
" by many wild frolics, yet I think he carried that too far, for 
" the fear of that brought me under too great an uneasiness 
"and sometimes even to a hatred of my father." 

The education however was very successful in its results. 
"I was sent to no school," he writes, **but was taught Latin 
by my father with so much success that before I was ten years 
old I was master of that tongue and of the classic authors." 

In October, 1652, he entered the Marischall College of 
Aberdeen University, where he remained for five years ** and 
"went through the common methods of the Aristotelian 
"philosophy with no small applause," becoming Master of 
Arts in June, 1657, before he was fourteen years of age. 
"All that while," he tells us, *'my father superintended my 
"studies, making me rise at four o'clock in the morning." 
** But," he adds with much naiveti^ "he perhaps loaded me 
" with too much learning for I was excessively vain of it." 

1 8 Family, Home4ife and Training [ch. i 

Such a system of education applied to one less robust 
in body and mind might well have produced a mere 
pedant. But there was in Gilbert Burnet an intense 
vitality, intellectual and physical, which no discipline could 
subdue. To the last he retained with a youthful exuber- 
ance of energy an almost childlike simplicity of mind. 
Talkative, conceited and self-confident he certainly was, but 
his egotism was largely redeemed by the amusing candour 
with which he confesses his faults, by his imperturbable 
good-nature and his great kindliness of heart. He had the 
singular ability, the restless energy and activity of the 
Johnstons, their impulsiveness and their indiscretion in 
speech. But, like his father, he had not in him the slightest 
trace of the fanatic or the Pharisee and he was plentifully 
endowed with a fund of shrewd common-sense. Like both 
father and mother he was honest in conviction, faithful and 
courageous in duty, sincere in religion. In fact much that 
makes the character of Gilbert Burnet so interesting may 
be traced to the union of and training given by Robert 
Burnet and Rachel Johnston, the latter **a Puritan with 
" the chill on," the former " a Puritan with the chill off." 

But it was not only in his regular studies that his 
father's influence was felt From him Gilbert inherited his 
passion for political anecdote. '* I had," he says, " while very 
*' young a greater knowledge of affairs than is usual at that 
" age, for my father, who had been engaged in great friend- 
•'ships with men of both sides, as he took my education 
" wholly into his own hands so he took a sort of pleasure to 
" relate to me the series of public affairs." It appears, in fact, 
that the elder Burnet was on the point of anticipating his 
more famous son as the historian of his own times, for **he 
" was importuned by men of all sides to write the history of 
" these distempered times, being esteemed a person of great 
" moderation and candour.... Warriston, in whose hands were 
"all the original papers of the Covenanters' side, offered 
" them to him for his assistance if he would undertake it : 
"but he was overgrown with age and infirmities and so 
"could not undertake so difficult a work." 

The future profession of Gilbert became now a matter 
for serious consideration and the decision being left to 
himself he chose the profession of law. This was a great 

1657-60] Resolves to enter the Ministry 19 

disappointment to his father, whose hope was that his 
youngest son should enter the ministry. But after a year 
of legal study Gilbert told his father that he had changed 
his mind and now wished to be a minister. " My father," 
he writes, "was overjoyed at this and ran out with many 
"tears into a heavenly discourse of the nobleness of a 
" function that was dedicated to God and to the saving of 
** souls, and charged me to study not out of vanity nor 
" ambition but to understand the Scriptures well and to have 
"a true sense of Divine matters in my own mind. He 
"continued to the end of his days repeating many good 
" instructions to me. He told me that he had seen much 
" ambition, great covetousness, and violent animosities among 
"our Bishops which had ruined the Church. He charged 
" me to treat all who differed from me with gentleness and 
"moderation and to apply myself chiefly to prayer, the 
"reading the Scriptures and the practical part." 

It seems strange that the elder Burnet should rejoice so 
greatly at his son s decision to enter the Church when we 
remember that this involved the acceptance of Presbyterian 
government, the signing of the Westminster Confession and 
of the Covenant The first obstacle was a slight one, for 
being an avowed Erastian he laid little stress on outward 
forms though he was deeply concerned with the essentials 
of religion. His attitude towards the Confession is not 
clear, though he seems to have been an Arminian rather 
than a Calvinist. His chief objection to the Covenant may 
have been removed by the signature of the "Supreme 
" Magistrate" Charles H. The most probable explanation 
however is that given (by the author of Part H of this 
work) that "it was an example of the extravagant sacrifices 
"that the 17th century Erastians were prepared to make 
"for peace." 

Gilbert Burnet threw himself into the studies of his three 
years' Divinity Course with characteristic ardour. He read 
over twenty volumes in folio of school divinity, though 
one result of this, he tells us with his usual frankness, 
"was to heighten my vanity and make me despise and 
" triumph over all who had not suffered themselves to be 
"entangled with that cobweb stuff I read also," he 
continues, "many volumes of history of all sorts, so that I 

20 Family, Home-li/e and Training [ch. i 

" furnished myself with much matter which I laid out on all 


Shortly after the close of his last session at the 
University of Aberdeen Charles II returned to the throne 
of his ancestors, an event that was hailed with delirious joy 
by the people of Scotland. Nothing shows more clearly 
how little men anticipated the great change the Restoration 
was to make in the Scottish Church than the fact that 
it did not interrupt Gilbert Burnet's progress towards the 
ministry. Nor need this be wondered at. Had not the 
king two months after his return written to the Presbytery 
of Edinburgh, **We do resolve to protect and preserve the 
" government of the Church of Scotland as it is settled by 
'' iaw"."^ Scotland had yet to learn what the king's word was 
Worth and to pay dearly for the knowledge. So Burnet went 
forward to his examination before the Presbytery and 
passed his trials at the close of the year 1660, becoming a 
probationer of the Church when he was little more than 
seventeen years of age. 

The faithful loysJty of Burnet's father was at last 
rewarded. He was made a Judge in January, 1661, and 
shortly afterwards a Baron of the Exchequer. He was 
also offered a knighthood, which he declined. He took his 
seat on the bench with the title of Lord Crimond on 
I St June, 1661. It is probable that his family accom- 
panied him to Edinburgh, for Gilbert tells that he witnessed 
the execution of James Guthrie, a leader of the Remon- 
strants or extreme Covenanting party. The unjust sentence 
on this minister, who though extreme in his religious views 
had done nothing worthy of death, was commonly ascribed 
to personal resentment in high quarters. Warriston, 
Gilbert's uncle, would have shared the same fate but escaped 
by flight for a time. 

Such things weighed heavy on the spirit of the gentle 
Lord Crimond. ** He was distressed that men's resentments 
" were so high for what was past." He was greatly alarmed 
at the outburst of vice that had taken place immediately 
after the Restoration and especially at the proceedings of 
Middleton's " Drunken Parliament" He saw from the 
passing of the Rescissory Act, which swept away twenty- 
three years' legislation, that it was the intention to establish 

i6&>-6i] Death of his Father 21 

^ Episcopacy, and Episcopal though he was in his sympathies, 
he disapproved of the method used for its restoration, and 
"did very much apprehend that great disorders would 

He was now burdened with years and his great desire 
was to see his youngest son settled as a parish minister. 
The opportunity came, for, writes Gilbert, **I was pre- 
**sented by Sir Alex. Burnet with a benefice where his 
** family resided and in the centre of our kindred. My father 
" left it to me to consider whether I would accept it or not 
*' but plainly intimated his wishes that I would. There is no 
" law in Scotland that limits the age of a clergyman but by 
" the happy Providence of God I refused it. I thought that 
" one that was not yet eighteen ought not to undertake a 
" cure of souls. Persons of that age are so apt to have a 
*' good opinion of themselves and to desire a settlement that 
* especially considering my father's infirmities and the value 
" of the benefice ; I wonder how I came to be so wise and 
" good as to refuse it. But I have often blessed God for it 
'' since and have observed what a happiness it was not to be 
"engaged in such a station before I was better prepared 
"for it" 

In the same year Gilbert had to mourn the loss of his 
father, who died 24th Aug., 1661, after a short illness. The 
loss to him was very great. Many years after he writes, * * I 
" am sensible that it may be thought I have said too much 
"of him, but I hope the reader will allow this return of 
" piety to one of the best fathers that ever man was blessed 
" with." 



It is somewhat difficult to explain the Restoration 
Government's policy towards the Scottish Church. When 
Charles I interfered with the Church he believed he was 
acting from religious principle, but it would be absurd to 
ascribe any such motive to his son. Charles II had no 
[•ratitude for the devotion which had stirred thousands of 
Covenanters to fight and die in the attempt to put him on 
the throne. But the affi"onts that he had suffered from some 
of them during his visit to Scotland he neither forgot nor 
forgave. The experience made him hate Presbyterianism 
as cordially as his father and grandfather had done. Still, 
self-interest was always a stronger motive with Charles 
than hatred and it did seem a perilous thing to raise trouble 
ip^ny part of his dominions so soon after the Restoration, 
"^auderdale, the ablest, the most far-seeing and the most 
unscrupulous of his advisers, earnestly dissuaded him from 
attempting to establish Episcopacy. He reminded the 
king that the troubles of the last two reigns began with the 
same policy ; he urged that in the event of a crisis arising 
in England Scotland would be devoted to the king's service 
if the Church were left alone. A clever man like Charles 
must have felt the force of such arguments which his own 
experience confirmed. He listened however too readily 
to the assurance of the Earl of Middleton that a reaction 
had taken place and that the nation would now welcome 
Episcopacy. No doubt there was some truth in the 
statement. The sordid and interminable quarrels of the 
Resolutioners and Protesters had offended the lovers of 
peace and order. The nobles and the majority of the 
landed gentry, in whose hands the power of Parliament lay, 

i66i] The Restoration of Episcopacy 23 

were tired of the Covenants and were ready not only to 
accede to but to anticipate the king's wishes. But there is 
little evidence that the change of feeling had affected the 
other classes of the people. The Rescissory Act, sweeping 
away the legislation of twenty-three years and making the 
Church of Scotland again Episcopal, alarmed and united the 
Presbyterians. The words of the king's letter to which 
they had blindly trusted, ** We do resolve to protect and 
" preserve the government of the Church of Scotland as 
"established by law," had now a very different meaning. 
From the Presbyteries and Synods which met in April and 
May protests came, denouncing "the scandal" that ministers 
wished Episcopacy, till Middleton, disturbed by the strength 
of the feeling, suppressed the meetings with the strong 
hand. There was one significant exception. The Synod of 
Aberdeen, where the Episcopal party had always been 
strongest, sent a petition concluding with the prayer, " That 
" since the legal authority upon which their courts proceeded 
" was now annulled that therefore the king and Parliament 
" would settle their government conform to the Scriptures 
"and the rules of the primitive Church." 

There was however no popular rising as in 1637. The 
people preserved an ominous silence. Perhaps neither 
Charles nor his ministers suspected that the Scotch 
democracy was the power with which they had to reckon. 

Gilbert Burnet was only eighteen years old when his 
father died. It is not probable that at that age he had 
formed his own opinions on questions of Church and State, 
Most likely he adopted the views of his father whom he so 
greatly revered. Robert Burnet, as we have seen, was an 
Erastian who, preferred Episcopacy. He was also a fervent 
loyalist who though not believing in the Divine Right of 
Kings yet was willing to invest the Royal prerogative with 
an authority in Church and State which most of his country- 
men were disposed to question. His training probably gave 
the first impulse and guidance to his son's career. It is 
clear that when the crisis arose Gilbert, though a licentiate 
of the Presbyterian Church, had a decided inclination to 
Episcopacy. He had lived in a district favourable to 
that cause. He had been present at the meeting of the 
Aberdeen Synods, had heard its somewhat cautiously worded 

24 Youth, Friends and Early Travels [ch. ii 

petition and agreed with its purpose. He had only seen 
Presbyterianism in its worst period and had no confidence 
in its power to restore order in the Church. 

Nor was he favourably impressed with the Presbyterian 
ministers whom he met. 

" I could never esteem them much," he says ; " I saw little 
" of the sublime, either of piety, virtue or learning among 
" them. Yet I must say on the other hand I saw so much 
" sincere zeal, such a sobriety, and purity of deportment, such 
" an application to prayer, to reading the Scriptures, and a 
" true though over-scrupulous observance of the Lord's Day, 
*• that has for ever secured me from uncharitable thoughts of 
" them or severe proceedings against them." 

At his mothers house in Edinburgh he often met the 
famous Presbyterian minister Robert Douglas. This 
remarkable man, the leader of the moderate Presbyterians, 
had been an intimate friend of Robert Burnet. He was 
held in extraordinary respect by all parties and is indeed 
one of the most interesting personalities of that time. He 
had done a great deal to bring about the restoration of 
Charles II, an event that ruined his ministerial career. Of 
unbending integrity he resolutely refused every inducement 
— even the highest office in the Church — to desert Pres- 
bytery for Episcopacy. It is perhaps natural that there 
should have been no great affection between the inflexible 
Presbyterian and the young licentiate who was intending to 
conform. Burnet however draws the portrait of Douglas 
very well, though with a somewhat grudging pen. ** He had 
something," he says, ** very great in his countenance. His 
looks showed both much wisdom and great thoughtfulness 
** but withal a vast pride. He was generally very silent. I 
"confess I never admired anything he said.... He was a man 
" of great personal courage, which he showed often in Germany 
" more signally than became his profession ; yet he was a 
very mild, good-natured man (though that did not much 
appear in his countenance) and he was of a most unblame- 
"able conversation as to all private matters." 

Of Douglas' preaching Burnet gives the following 
account : ** This was his great faculty in preaching that he 
" laid all the Scriptures relating to any point together but it 
*' was a skeleton of bones, for he neither connected them 


1661-62] His opinion of the Presbyterian leaders 25 

*'well nor made he lively reflections on them. His chief 
'* excellence in preaching was that he would have made his 
" matter look towards the present times with such dexterity 
" that though it was visible what he meant he could not be 
"questioned upon it." 

Another able and learned minister also a frequent 
visitor at the house of Burnet's mother was George 
Hutcheson. Nor was Gilbert drawn more to him. 

"He affected great mirth," he says, "and was much 
"given to raillery, but it was neither grave nor witty 
"and he seemed to be a proud man. He married my 
"cousin-germane so that I was well acquainted with him." 

Burnet, while readily acknowledging that others whose 
judgment he valued had a very different opinion, thus 
criticises Hutcheson's preaching; "He had a great subtlety 
"in preaching and drew out one thing very ingeniously 
" from another which I thought was like wire-drawing and 
" ever despised it." 

Such being his opinion of the most eminent of the 
Presbyterian ministers it was very evident that he was not 
to be one of their followers. His mother, brothers and 
sisters, who were strongly opposed to Episcopacy, became 

" Soon after my father's death," he writes, " my brother 
" Robert died. He was rising up to be very eminent in the 
"law.... My mother's kindred pressed me very much to 
" return to the study of the law but I told them I had put 
" my hand to the plough and could not look back." 

The indignation of all the members of the household at 
Gilbert's intention to become an Episcopal minister was 
very strong. In all likelihood the ministers were asked to 
use their influence, and possibly Burnet refers to the 
interference of Douglas in this matter when he says, " I 
"wondered to see him express such mean compliances 
** with silly women of their party as I have seen him do to 
"my own mother and sister." 

The relations of the other members of the household 
with the youngest son seem to have been sufficiently 
strained if they did not come to open rupture. 

He thus speaks of the value of the friendships he made 
with Nairn and Charteris at this time. " That I fell into 

26 Youth, Friends and Early Travels [ch. ii 

''such hands after I had so long cast off all restraint and 
'* was now beginning to take my ply, was so great a blessing 
" to me and had such effects on me that to this day I count 
" myself bound in my daily thanksgiving to thank God for 
"the happy providence of falling into their acquaintance 
"and friendship." 

It was one of the charms of Burnet's character that he 
had a genius for friendship. He made many excellent 
friends in his youth whom he cherished all his life. The 
two ministers to whom he refers were men who chose 
to live a quiet life, firmly refusing preferment which was 
offered and deserved. Their names and characters would 
alike have been forgotten had they not been preserved by 
the affection of Burnet. He remembered them to the last 
with undying gratitude and veneration. 

The first was James Nairn, the minister of the Abbey 
Church in Edinburgh. 

" He was," says Burnet, ** the politest man I ever knew 
" bred in Scotland and the most eloquent of all our preachers. 
''He considered the pastoral function as a dedication of the 
"whole man to God and His service. He read the moral 
" philosophers much. . .and turned it all into melting devotion. 
" He had a true notion of superstition as a narrowness of 
"soul and a meanness of thought in religion. He studied to 
" raise all who conversed with him to great notions of God 
"and an universal charity. This made him pity the 
" Presbyterians as men of low notions and ill tempers.... In 
"a word he was the brightest man I ever knew among 
"the Scottish divines." 

Burnet greatly admired this minister's preaching and 
took it as his pattern. Nairn helped his young friend in 
his studies, turning his attention especially to the Platonic 
philosophy. He also exercised a great influence in 
instructing and confirming him in the doctrine of passive 
obedience, of which he was a stout upholder. 

The second of Burnet's lifelong friends made at this 
time was Laurence Charteris, minister of Yester in 
Haddingtonshire. " I saw in him," says Burnet, *'a grave 
"and solemn simplicity joined with great prudence. He 
" seemed dead to the world and had no mixture of vanity or 
" self-conceit. He hated controversies and disputes as dry 

1661-62] His friends Nairn and Charteris 27 


and lifeless things. He loved the mystical divines and 
thought he found in them a better savour of Divine 
" matters than in most other writers. There was no aflfect- 
"ation in him. His sermons were plain and easy, little 
*' different from common discourse, insisting chiefly on our 
being resigned in all things to the will of God and our 
loving and obeying Him, and our living in the daily 
•* expectation of death and judgment.... He was a very 
"perfect friend and a sublime Christian." 

Both Nairn and Charteris were Erastians and conformed 
to Episcopacy. In disposition they were strangely unlike 
Burnet, but his reverence for them was great and they 
exercised no little influence on his future life. 

The winter months of 1661-62 were passed in hard 
and varied study. Among the books he looked into were 
the sermons of the Episcopal divines, his opinion of them 
not being very high. " I could never read them," he con- 
fesses, **even those of the then admired Bishop Andrews." 
But he found great delight in the study of Hookers 
Ecclesiastical Polity, ** which did so fix me," he says, ''that 
" I never departed from the principles laid down by him, nor 
" was I a little delighted with the modesty and charity that 
" I observed in him, which edified me as much as his book 
"instructed me." 

Meanwhile public events of great importance were 
taking place. In April the four Scottish bishops who had 
been consecrated at Westminster travelled northward. One 
of them, Leighton, already displeased with his colleagues 
and disliking all parade, left them at Morpeth and travelled 
alone. The other three made a triumphal entry into 
Edinburgh escorted by the Lord Chancellor, the nobility, 
and the city magistrates. Burnet was a spectator and 
remarks, *' There was something in the pomp of that 
"entry that did not look like the humility of their 

He hastened to hear Leighton preach, and was 
fascinated from the first. "He had such a way of 
" preaching," he says, " that I never knew any come near it. 
" His thoughts were the most ravishing, his style the most 
" beautiful (if not too fine), but his way of uttering them so 
" grave and so tender that I never heard him preach without 

28 Youth, Friends and Early Travels [ch. ii 

** trembling for one great part of the sermon and weeping for 
" another, and I confess that his way of preaching was so 
'* much above all others that I had ever heard or anything 
" that I could ever hope to attain that for some time after 
** every sermon of his I both preached myself and heard all 
** others with indignation. And yet he really seemed so to 
" undervalue himself that he always chose to preach to mean 
" auditories." 

This remarkable man, whose preaching so enchanted 
Burnet, was the son of a Scotsman, Dr Leighton, who 
became a fanatical Presbyterian minister in England and 
was most inhumanly punished by Archbishop Laud. Robert 
Leighton was sent to Edinburgh University, where he 
developed a character of singular excellence. He was a 
deeply religious man, in wnom neither fanaticism nor 
sectarian bitterness found any place, in whom even the 
sufferings of his father stirred no vengeful feeling. His 
gentle nature dwelt apart from the stirring controversies of 
the day: the bitter feelings they excited were beyond his 
understanding. While the contest was raging around him, 
dragging into its vortex even the most peaceable of 
mortals, he was never heard to utter an angry word. 
He moved through the troubled scenes like a being 
from another sphere, earnestly but vainly endeavouring to 
persuade men to peace and charity, at once the embarrass- 
ment and the admiration of partizans. But with all this 
he was not a strong man. He lacked the foresight, the 
decision and the strength of purpose that make a leader of 
men. He had a saintly purity but a saint's ignorance of the 
world, and this ignorance often placed him in positions 
where he should not have been. He belonged in turn to 
every party of the period. He was an upholder of both 
Covenants. He approved of the Engagement but not 
openly. He accepted from Cromwell the office of Principal 
of the Edinburgh University. And now at the Restoration 
he was persuaded to accept a Bishopric, though he did not 
believe in the virtue of Episcopal ordination. No doubt 
he accepted the office in the hope that it would bring the 
miserable ecclesiastical dissensions to an end. From what 
he had already seen of his colleagues, however, he feared 
that he had made a mistake, and he began his work in 

i662] His character of Leighton 29 

Scotland full of sad forebodings that after-events were to 
justify only too well. 

Soon after he had heard Leighton preach Burnet made 
his acquaintance, and the friendship thus begun continued 
without the least break till Leigh ton's death. It may have 
been their very unlikeness that drew these two men so 
closely together. Each admired in the other qualities that 
his own character lacked. Leighton's want of decision and 
his ignorance of the world made him lean on his impulsive, 
energetic young friend ; while Burnet could not express too 
strongly his admiration of the bishop and his gratitude for 
the friendship which he warmly declares to have been the 
gfreatest blessing of his life. 

" I can truly say," he writes, ** I never was with him but 
*' I felt within me a commentary on these words, * Did not 
" * our hearts burn within us while He talked with us } ' He 
** led me into higher thoughts than I had formerly known, 
" both of a more total deadness to the world, and of a more 
" entire dedication of my whole life to the service of God, 
" and to the good of souls. He quite emancipated me from 
** the servility I was yet in to systems and received opinions, 
" and spoke always of religion as a thing above opinions and 
" parties, and that these things were of no consequence. He 
" also spake much to me of humility and abasement, of being 
** nothing in one's eyes, and of being willing to be nothing in 
" the eyes of the world." 

"Total deadness to the world" was in truth never a 
feature of Burnet's character, though it was an ideal that 
hovered before him all his life. He honestly strove to 
imitate the restful aloofness of the pietists, but in vain. 
His qualities were to be shown in a very different way. 
At the same time the influence of the older man helped 
Burnet to be a faithful minister, and he was soon to take 
part in work where the friendship of Leighton was to prove 

Meanwhile Episcopacy was running its troubled course 
in Scotland. That the people ever longed for it is a purely 
fanciful statement. Had prudent and moderate counsels 
prevailed it is possible that its cause might have been 
successful. But it must be confessed that the Episcopal 
Church was most unfortunate in its leaders. Sharp, 

30 Youth, Friends and Early Travels [ch. ii 

Archbishop of St Andrews, was the worst hated man in 
Scotland. He had been sent to London to promote the 
Presbyterian cause and had returned Archbishop. Fairfoul, 
the Archbishop of Glasgow, also an old Covenanter, was a 
man of little worth and in his brief term of office did more 
injury to the Episcopal cause than any other man. The 
Earl of Middleton, who was at the head of the Government, 
was a drunken profligate. No wonder that the attempt to 
set up Episcopacy with the aid of such men seemed to the 
saintly Leighton "like a fighting against God." Positive 
madness seemed to possess the administration. Lay 
patronage, which had been abolished in 1649, was restored 
in 1662. The ministers who had been appointed in the 
intervening years were to be allowed to retain their 
livings if they took presentation from the patrons and 
accepted institution from the bishops before Michaelmas. 
As this meant acknowledgment of Episcopacy most of the 
ministers declined to do so. The Archbishop of Glasgow 
accordingly obtained an Act of Council declaring those 
parishes vacant whose ministers had not accepted the 
conditions of the Patronage Act. Two hundred ministers 
were ejected on one day, and as if the difficulty were not 
great enough one hundred and fifty more were turned out 
for refusing to attend the Synod. The large diocese of 
Glasgow was almost denuded of its ministers, and only after 
this was done did Fairfoul begin to consider how the 
vacancies were to be filled. To do them justice Sharp and 
most of the bishops deplored the insensate folly of their 
colleague, but the mischief done was irreparable. 

Gilbert Burnet's opinion of the deprived ministers is not 
very high. 

"They were," he says, "generally little men that had 
" narrow souls and low notions... a sour and supercilious sort 
" of people. They had little learning among them. Their 
" way of preaching was plain and intelligible but very dull." 

On the other hand he bears ample testimony to the 
purity of their lives and the faithfulness of their ministry, 
acknowledging " that they were held in great esteem by the 
"people." In short, he had little sympathy with the 
principles on which the ministers had acted, but he condemns 
the way in which they had been treated. 

1662] Becomes acquainted with Kincardine 31 

The supplying of the vacant parishes with ministers 
was now the problem set before the Church. In these 
circumstances it is not surprising that the attention of the 
king's ministers should have been attracted to the brilliant 
young Aberdonian, the son of their late colleague, who was 
in a position to take immediate orders. 

" At that time," he writes, " the Chancellor Glencaim 
** sent for me and obliged me to be oft with him. He also 
" made me acquainted with Mackenzie, known best in Scot- 
" land as Lord Tarbert, for he was a Judge, or as we call them 
/* a Lord of the Session. He was a man of very fine notions 
" and had the beginnings of very valuable parts of learning 
'* so I delighted much in his company. But I soon grew 
weary of Glencairn for he was dull and haughty. They 
both pressed me much to accept a benefice in the west but 
" I thank God that preserved me from it." 

It was well for Burnet that he had the good sense to 
refuse. The indignation of the people of the west of 
Scotland at the ejection of their former ministers was so 
fierce and strong that no Episcopal incumbent had any chance 
of success in parish work. Congregations could only be 
procured with the help of dragoons. 

Burnet wisely remained in Edinburgh, pursuing his 
private studies and extending the circle of his acquaintances 
and friends. Among the latter was already included the 
Earl of Kincardine, one of the ablest noblemen and one of 
the most interesting Scotsmen of the day. He was a sincerely 
religious man, who took a keen interest in Church affairs. 
He opposed the introduction of Episcopacy and afterwards 
did his best for toleration. Burnet's elder brother Thomas 
(already marked as a rising physician) married in 1662 
a relative of this nobleman. It was probably this 
marriage that procured for Gilbert the friendship of Kin- 
cardine himself, whose character is thus described in the 
History : 

"He was both the wisest and one of the worthiest men 
that belonged to his country.... His thoughts went slow, and 
his words came much slower, but a deep judgment appeared 
in everything he said or did. He had a noble zeal for 
"justice, in which even friendship could never bias him. He 
" had solid principles of religion and virtue, which showed 



32 Youth, Friends and Early Travels ^[ch. n 

* themselves with great lustre on all occasions. He was a 
' faithful friend and a merciful enemy. I may perhaps be 

* inclined to carry his character too far ; for he was the first 

* man that entered into friendship with me. We continued 

* for seventeen years in so entire a friendship that there never 

* was even reserve or mistake between us all the while till 

* his death, and it was from him that I understood the whole 

* secret of affairs : for he was trusted with everything." 

Burnet was indeed fortunate in gaining for a friend this 
highly gifted nobleman, a man of such excellent character. 
Kincardine, as we see from his letters, was not blind to 
Burnet's faults, but he had a genuine affection for, and 
took a deep interest in the young minister. With such 
introductions, as well as his own brilliant attainments and 
conversational powers, it is not wonderful that Gilbert 
Burnet rapidly became one of the favourites of Edinburgh 
society, a fact which he comments on in his own inimitable 
fashion : 

"Now I began to be known to great men, and have 
" ever since been much in their company, which has brought 
" much envy and censure upon me from other clergymen, who 
'^ fancied that I used odd arts to compass it But I can give 
'* no other account of that matter but this. I never sought 
"the acquaintance of a great man in my whole life, but 
" have often declined it Many loved me for my father's 
'^ sake, and I had a facetiousness and easiness in conversation 
*' that was entertaining ; I had read a variety of things and 
** could dress them in easy words, so that many liked my 
** company. I never imposed it on any, but I do not deny 
** that I had great vanity in finding my company so much 
"desired. I talked much and was in many things very 
" foolish and very faulty, yet I beg^n early to set myself to 
" serve all people that were low in affliction." 

The egotism of Burnet was to be a subject of endless 
raillery for his Jacobite enemies. It is only fair to note that 
though never blind to his own good qualities, he, unlike 
most egotists, was quite alive to his faults and reveals them 
with refreshing candour. 

But his friends and acquaintances did not belong to one 
sex. About this time he formed the first of his many 
friendships among the distinguished women of the day. 

i662] Introduction to Lady Balcarres 33 

His popularity in this respect though attributed by ill- 
natured contemporaries to the attractions of a handsome 
person and engaging manners, may be more truly and more 
charitably ascribed to the fact that women saw him almost 
exclusively in his best aspect, as director, preacher, and 
friend. Of these friendships the earliest and perhaps 
one of the most important was with the Dowager-Countess 
of Balcarres, who afterwards became the wife of the ninth 
Earl of Argyll. 

•* Both her lord and she " (Burnet writes) '* had a great 
' value for my father, and she, having heard no ill things of 
' me, sent for me, and we grew soon acquainted. I found 

* her a woman of great piety and worth. She was not 
'bigoted to Presbytery, though she liked it better than 
' Episcopacy. She has a fine understanding, and a pleasant 

* temper, and having lived almost ten years in the Court, 

* she could talk of many things that were quite new to me. 
' In short, though I have found since that she was mistaken 
' in many things, yet the great conversation I had with her 

* this winter was a very good preparation for my journey to 
' London next year." 

By this lady, Burnet was introduced to Lord Lorn (her 
future husband), who had just been reprieved from his first 
iniquitous condemnation to death, but was still a prisoner in 
Edinburgh Castle. On this distinguished but unfortunate 
nobleman Burnet waited often during the winter. The 
trial and sentence of Lorn had caused an outburst of 
popular indignation, and Burnet evidently shared in this, 
for he describes Lorn ** as certainly born to be the signalest 
*' example in this age of the rigour, or rather of the mockery 
** of justice." 

Such experiences, so early begun, gave Burnet the 
best opportunities for acquiring gradually that intimate and 
accurate knowledge of the men and the political events of 
the day of which he made such effective use in his 
History of his own times. 

But meanwhile the affairs of his home life were not 
proceeding so smoothly. All the members of the household 
but himself, he tells us, "were indiscreetly Presbyterian," 
and the events of the winter months had furnished them 
with grievances in abundance. The bishop's hand had 

34 Youth, Friends and Early Travels [ch. n 

fallen heavily on Edinburgh. Every minister, with one 
exception (derisively nicknamed '*the nest egg"), left his 
church rather than conform. Nairn, Burnet's friend, did 
conform, but thought it prudent to bow before the popular 
indignation, and retired to Bolton, a small parish in 
Haddingtonshire. The sympathy of the people was 
strongly with the ejected ministers. No doubt Gilbert 
heard from his family more than he cared about his own 
defection and the tyranny of his party. We are not 
surprised to learn that his position at home became very 
uncomfortable. " These things," he says, ** cast me into a 
**deep melancholy. I spent whole days in silence and 
'* devotion, and the nights were tedious to me." He sought 
relief in the study of mathematics, under the guidance of 
George Keith, a distinguished fellow-student of Burnet's in 
Aberdeen University. He also read the works of the 
early Christian Fathers, and " went through the tomes of the 
** councils in a series down to the Second Nicene Council." 

The reading of these books did not make him more 
inclined to approve of the actions of the Scottish bishops. 

'* I took up then," he says, *'such notions as I could 
** never since that time lay down. I grew to hate all opinions 
** that tended to raise the wealth and the secular power of 
** the clergy, and insensibly came to love a monastic state of 
** life. I hated our contentions at home, and my melancholy 
"prevailed so upon me that nothing but clear and strong 
*' principles could have preserved me from going over to 
**the Church of Rome, and entering into a religious order." 

But Burnet neither became a monk, nor joined the 
Church of Rome. He did something more in accordance 
with his own healthy Scotch nature. He wrote a letter to 
Archbishop Sharp, expressing himself very plainly about 
the evils he saw in the Scottish Episcopal Church. 

" I writ," he says, " an unsubscribed letter to Sharp, 
"setting before him the miserable state in which we were 
"falling, and begged him to think on something to heal our 
" breaches, and to settle us again. I sent it by my man, who 
"did not come away so quick, but he was examined, and 
" owned that he came from me. Sharp bid him tell me he 
" would be glad to speak with me, so two days after I went 
'*to him, I had never seen him before. I kneeled for his 


1662] Interview with Archbishop Sharp 35 

" blessing, so by that he saw I was Episcopal. He treated 
''me roughly, and asked what I had to propose for the 
''settlement or government of the Church. I told him 
" remedies could easily be found out, if there was once a 
" disposition to seek for them. But being pressed by him to 
"offer somewhat, I proposed the suffering all the Presby- 
" terians to return to such Churches as were not yet planted, 
"and then seeking expedients for keeping matters in some 
" unity, till they should die out, and in the meanwhile to be 
taking care of a good breed. He grew a little calm at 
last, and told me that young men understood not govem- 
" ment, and ought not to meddle in it. He believed I had 
"good intentions, and charged me not to talk of that which 
"passed between us to any person, and so dismissed me 
"with some civilities." 

The good-natured contempt with which the archbishop 
rejected the advice of the youthful reformer was perhaps to 
v/be expected. The letter, however, is an admirable illustra- 
tion of the naive presumption and shrewd common sense, 
/ »oth of which were prominent features in the character of 
Burnet It was his first attempt, we shall see that it was 
not his last, to secure some toleration for the Presbyterians, 
to whose policy he was strongly opposed. Burnet's own 
comment on the wisdom of this step, written twenty years 
after in a mood of temporary depression, is as follows : 

" I confess a disease had now got into my mind which 
"held me above ten years. It was an opinion I had that 
" mankind was capable of amendment, and that Churches 
"and churchmen could be reformed, and that abuses might 
" be so laid open that they should grow generally odious to 
"all the world. With these things I pleased as well as 
"vexed myself very long, and I made it my chief business 
" in the study of antiquity to pick up anything that might 
" fortify these notions, and I have had many discourses with 
" Bishop Leighton concerning them, who had heat enough 
" that way. Mr Charteris had always the true notion of this 
" matter, that it was a vain thing to dream of mending the 
"world, and chiefly that which was generally the worst part 
" of it, I mean churchmen, so that all that a wise or good 
" man ought to do was to possess his own mind with good 
"notions and to infuse them in some few individuals that 


36 Youth, Friends and Early Travels [ch. ii 

"were prepared for them, or were capable of them, and 
''that it was fruitless labour to hope to propagate them to 
*' the world, or to do any good on great numbers. But these 
"things did not cool me. Time and experience have at 
" last done it, for I have now for many years laid down all 
"these thoughts upon which I had formerly raised many 
''schemes, and formed many models." 

These words, so very unlike in spirit to the cheerful 
confidence and optimism of Burnet, were probably written 
in the despondent days that succeeded the Rye House 
Plot. He thought that he had finally and irrevocably 
resolved to go into retirement, and take no more interest 
in public affairs. It was a resolve that he often made, but 
never kept 

But early in 1663 an event took place which diverted 
the attention of Burnet from the ecclesiastical affairs of 
Scotland, and occasioned his first visit to England. His 
uncle. Sir Archibald Johnston, Lord Warriston, had been 
living on the Continent since the Restoration, watched with 
ceaseless vigilance by the agents of the king. Unfortu- 
nately for himself he ventured into France, and was 
immediately arrested at Rouen. He was conveyed to 
London, and imprisoned in the Tower for six months. 
When the news reached Edinburgh, Burnet, at the earnest 
entreaty of his mother, proceeded to London, to do what 
he could in his uncles behalf, and give all possible 
assistance and comfort to poor Lady Warriston. On his 
arrival he found little could be done. He appealed to 
Lauderdale and Middleton, old friends and comrades of 
Warriston's, but both firmly declined to plead for one whom 
the king hated so cordially. '* We solicited," says Burnet, 
*' all the hungry courtiers. Many that had a great mind to 
"our money, tried what could be done, but they all found 
" it was a thing too big for them to meddle with." 

The utter hopelessness of the attempt to obtain the 
mercy of the king soon became too evident. 

One of the letters of introduction which Burnet had 
brought to London was from the Countess of Balcarres to 
Sir Robert Moray, her late husband's brother-in-law. 
This exceptionally gifted man, who looks so strangely out 
of place in the Court of Charles H, was one of the most 

1663] Meets Moray and Drummond in London 37 

interesting, and one of the best Scotchmen of that day. 
An able and moderate statesman, of brilliant intellect, 
fascinating manners and good life, he exercised an excellent 
influence on Lauderdale during the early years of his 
administration. The following portrait which Burnet draws 
of him is not too highly coloured. 

" He was a pious man, and in the midst of armies and 
\ *' courts he spent many hours a day in a devotion which was 
" of a most elevating strain.... He was the first former of the 
** Royal Society, and its first President, and while he lived 
" he was the life and soul of that body. He had an equality 
"of temper in him that nothing could alter, and was in 
"practice the only Stoic I ever knew.... He had a most 
''diffused love to all mankind, and he delighted in every 
"occasion of doing good, which he managed with great 
*' discretion and zeal. He had the plainest, and withal the 
"softest way of reproving, chiefly, young people for their 
"faults.. ..I have ever reckoned that next to my father 
** I owed more to him than any other man." 

It says much for the character of Burnet that he 
won this good man's sincere liking and lifelong friendship. 
Moray took the deepest interest in the welfare of his young 
fellow-countrymen. He recognised the good qualities, and 
also the faults of Burnet, as the latter acknowledges with 
his usual candour. 

** His greatest act of kindness to me was in reproving 
' what he saw was amiss in me ; which was too much talk, 
" and a bold way of speaking, a readiness to censure others, 
" to set a value on myself, and to affect to talk eloquently. 
" Of this last he cured me quite, and shewed me how far 
"plain simple reason was beyond all laboured stuff, but my 
"other faults were too deeply rooted to be soon cured." 

Probably it was to his mother's friends that Burnet 
owed his introduction to Patrick Drummond, a Scotch 
Presbyterian minister, who had been settled in London for 
ten years. He had been the representative of the 
Remonstrants, or Protesters, in their dealings with the 
English Presbyterians during the Commonwealth, and had 
rendered great services to Lauderdale and Crauford during 
their imprisonment He had also been the friend and 
confidant of Archbishop Sharp before his defection. 





i V 


38 Youth, Friends and Early Travels [ch. ii 

Probably it was from him that Burnet derived particulars 
of Sharp's treachery, which was specially evident in his 
dealings with Drummond. 

Of this old Protester Burnet writes : 

''He was a generous and worthy man and set himself 
*' much to do good. His heart was full of religion. He was 
'' free of all superstition and bigotry, and saw through the 
''errors and follies of all parties. He was a man of great 
*' understanding, and of a true judgment. He likewise took 
'' me to task, (or he was morose, and used to chide me for 
"my faults a little too much, and indeed they both (f>. 
*' Drummond and Moray) took as much pains to form me 
" right as if I had been their brother, which was an invalu- 
" able blessing to me." 

As Burnet could do nothing for Warriston, and was 
denied admission to the Tower till May\ he devoted the 
months of waiting to the study of the ecclesiastical condition 
of England. On St Bartholomew's Day, 1662, two 
thousand ministers, who had been appointed during the 
Commonwealth, had been turned out of their benefices. 
Episcopacy had again been firmly established. Burnet 
accordingly set himself to know ministers of all parties, and 
to examine both sides of the question. He was not 
attracted by " the high episcopal men," but he was greatly 
impressed by Whichcote, the famous preacher at St Anne's, 
Blackfriars. He became acquainted with TiUotson, Stilling- 
fleet, and Wilkins. ^ ^"^ * 

''They were very free with me," he says, "and I easily 
" went into the notions of the Latitudinarians." 

Among the Presbyterians he was specially interested in 
Richard Baxter, to whom he had been recommended 
(probably by Lady Balcarres), and from whose books he 
had derived much benefit " I was often with him," he 
says. "He seemed very serious in the great matters of 
" religion, and very moderate in the points of conformity, but 
" I perceived he was credulous, and easily heated by those 
"who came about him." With Dr Manton, " the prelate of 

^ May 19th, 1663. Warrant to the Lieutenant of the Tower to allow Lady 
Warriston, Mrs English, and Gilbert Burnet, to have access to Lord Warriston, 
but only at the point of his transportation, and in the presence of the Lieutenant. 
Domestic State Papers^ entry Bk 15, p. 2a 

1663] Visits Cambridge and Oxford 39 

•'the Presbyterians," he was less pleased. "He seemed 
*'to be too full of intrigues, and was a more artificial man." 

Burnet also spent some time at Cambridge University, 
where he was much charmed by the candour and philo- 
sophic temper of Dr More, " the famous Christian Platonist." 
"I shall never forget," he says, "one saying of his with 
** relation to the disputes then on foot concerning Church 
"government and ritual. He said none of these things 
"were so good as to make men good, nor so bad as to 
" make men bad, but might be either good or bad, according 
"to the hands into which they fell." 

From Cambridge he proceeded to Oxford, where he 

found ecclesiastical learning more in request. "There," 

he says, "my study of antiquity (I being then so young) 

'did me much service, or rather, it advanced my vanity. 

* I was much delighted with the spirit I saw in Dr Fell and 

* Dr AUestry, who were two of the devoutest men I saw in 

* England. They were much mortified to the world, and 
'fasted and prayed much, only they were too hot, as I 
' thought, in some little matters. My declaring for Lauder- 

* dale, and my being much with Dr Wallis [the celebrated 

* mathematician], to whom Sir Robert Moray commended 

* me, made me pass for a Presbyterian with them, so they 

* were reserved to me, or perhaps they looked upon me as 
' a vain, confident boy who had a little knowledge and a 

* vast deal of pride. From the universities I returned to 

* London, where I needed some of the mortifications that 
'my two friends gave me." 

He carried with him an introduction from Dr Wallis 
to the famous Robert Boyle, the founder of modern 

With him, he tells us, " I lived ever after to his dying 
" day in a close and entire friendship. He had the purity 
" of an angel in him, and was modest and humble rather to 
"a fault. He was perhaps too eager in the pursuit of 
" knowledge, but his aim in it all was to raise in him a higher 
" sense of the wisdom and glory of the Creator. He studied 
" the Scripture with great application, and practised universal 
"love and goodness. He was a declared enemy to all 
"bitterness, and most particularly to all persecution, on 
"the account of religion." 

40 Youth, Friends and Early Travels [ch. ii 

Burnet returned to Scotland in June, 1663, in the 
company of Lady Warriston, who followed her unfortunate 
husband. A great change had taken place in the adminis- 
tration. The rule of Middleton was over. He had tried 
to oust Lauderdale from the Royal favour, and had been 
defeated by his abler rival. The Earl of Rothes, a creature 
of Lauderdale's, had been appointed Lord High Commis- 
sioner, and Lauderdale himself, leaving Sir Robert Moray 
as his deputy in London, had come north to supervise the 
Parliament which he was to make his tool for many years. 
It was before this Parliament that Warriston appeared to 
receive his doom. It is true that Scotland, recognising how 
much the great Covenanting lawyer did for her civil and 
religious liberty, has been inclined to forget his faults, but 
it must be confessed that according to the laws and the 
principles of the Restoration Warriston's fate was inevitable. 
He had been a very prominent leader in the National 
League and Covenant of 1638, and of the Solemn League 
and Covenant of 1643. It was the irony of fate that most 
of those who sat in judgment on him had been his aiders 
and abettors in these matters. But we must remember that 
he had done more than this. He had been the leader of 
the Remonstrants, the extreme and factious party that had 
weakened and ruined the attempt of the Scotch to place 
Charles II on the throne. The King had shewn 
his relentless hatred of this party by the execution 
of Argyll and Guthrie. And Warriston had been a greater 
offender than they. No man had been more outspoken 
in his criticism of the king's faults. His remarks were 
possibly true enough, but were not on that account more 
easily forgotten by such a man as Charles II. Above all, 
Warriston, with much reluctance it is true, still had con- 
sented to join the administration of Cromwell, and had 
taken a prominent part in the Government. If a general 
indemnity were not passed, then no Scotsman was a greater 
offender than Warriston. Such men as he always appear 
in a religious crisis, never sparing, and when the reaction 
comes, never spared. Enfeebled by his long imprisonment, 
the stern Protester, to the surprise of all, completely broke 
down when he appeared before Parliament, and abjectly 
cried for mercy. But he quickly recovered himself, and 

1663] Execution of JVarriston 41 

received his sentence with composure and disunity. Burnet 
tried hard to obtain a reprieve. He ** forced" Lauderdale, 
as the latter puts it, to write a few lines in the condemned 
man's favour to Sir Robert Moray, which the family sent 
to London by post, but LauderdaJe rendered the attempt 
useless, prompdy retracting his letter by the next express, 
Burnet attended his uncle most assiduously to the last, and 
walked with him to the scaffold, where Warriston bravely 
met his fate. Though Burnet had little sympathy with his 
uncle's views, not unnaturally the event made a deep 
impression on him. Twenty-three years later, as we shall 
have occasion to observe, there was passed on him, while 
an exile in Holland, the very same sentence, and it is not 
perhaps surprising that he should have laid weight on this 
incident, which his enemies were ever ready to ridicule. 

In the same Session Parliament passed the Conventicle 
Act. The deprived Presbyterian ministers had continued 
to preach in their parishes, though no longer in the churches, 
and the people had flocked to these services, leaving the 
churches empty. The Act forbade these conventicles, as 
they were called. Ministers who conducted them were to 
be treated as seditious persons, and all who refused to 
attend the parish churches were to be fined. This Act, so 
novel a plan for securing congregations, was humorously 
called the Bishops' Drag-net. 

It was shortly after the execution of Warriston that 
Burnet entered into closer relations with the statesman 
who has earned such an unenviable notoriety, and made 
himself detested by his fellow-countrymen in a degree that 
few men have achieved. Lauderdale was perhaps the 
strangest product of that stirring and eventful age, and 
Burnet has left us in his History a vivid sketch of the 
appearance and character of the man. 

"He made a very ill appearance ; he was very big, his 
** hair was red, hanging oddly about him, his tongue was too 
" big for his mouth, which made him bedew all that he talked 
" to, and his whole manner was rough and boisterous, and 
*' very unfit for a Court. He was very learned, not only 
'*in Latin, in which he was a master, but also in Greek 
'' and Hebrew. He had read a great deal in divinity, and 
*' almost all historians, ancient and modern, so that he had 

42 Youth, Friends and Early Travels [ch. ii 

great materials. He had with these an extraordinary 
memory and a copious but unpolished expression. He 
was a man, as the Duke of Buckingham called him to me, 
of a blundering understanding, not always clear, but often 
clouded, as his looks were always. He was haughty 
beyond expression ; abject to those he saw he must stoop 
to, but imperious, insolent, and brutal to all others. He 
had a violence of passion that carried him often to fits like 
madness, in which he had no temper. If he took a thing 
wrong it was a vain thing to study to convince him ; that 
would rather provoke him to swear he would never be of 
another mind ; he was to be let alone, and then perhaps he 
would have forgot what he had said, and come about of his 
own accord. He was the coldest friend and the violentest 
enemy that I ever knew.... He at first seemed to despise 
wealth, but he delivered himself up afterwards to luxury 
and sensuality, and by that means he ran into vast expense, 
and stuck at nothing that was necessary to support that. 
In his long imprisonment he had great impressions of 
religion on his mind, but he wore out these so entirely that 
scarce any trace of them was left. His great experience 
in affairs, his ready compliance with everything that he 
thought would please the king, and his bold offering at the 
most desperate counsels gained him such an interest in the 
king that no attempt against him could ever shake it, till 
a decay of strength and understanding forced him to let go 
his hold." 

This pen-portrait Dr Airy (a great authority on the 
subject) has pronounced " conspicuously accurate and fair." 
But it ought to be pointed out that the worst features of 
Lauderdale's character, as described here, only revealed 
themselves in his most degenerate days, when he ruled 
Scotland in the spirit, and after the manner, of a Turlcish 
Pasha. The signs of this degeneracy were at least not 
evident in 1663. At that time most people looked to 
Lauderdale as the man who would redress the grievances 
of his country. In his early days, no man had shewn more 
zeal for the Covenants, no man was held in higher 
repute among the Presbyterians. For this cause he had 
risked all, had ruined his estate, had suffered imprisonment, 
had narrowly escaped death. It is scarcely possible to 


i663] Character of Lauderdale 43 

doubt the genuineness of the man's religious feeling in his 
early manhood, the testimony is so strong. Yet it must be 
confessed that the change to another course was very 
rapid. At the Restoration, with the cool deliberateness 
which only strong men shew, he decided that the sacrifices 
he had made for the cause of the Church were too 
great, and resolved to follow at any cost that policy of 
self-aggrandisement by which he enriched his estate, 
increased his power, and wrecked his reputation. The 
man was always strong, whether for good or evil, un- 
questionably the ablest and most masterful statesman in 
Scotland. His countrymen had recognised his powers, 
though his policy was still to them an enigma. Even the 
Presbyterians looked to him with hope, not unmixed with 
doubts and fears. They knew that he had strongly urged 
the king not to introduce Episcopacy, they knew that he 
was still suspected at the Court of favouring Presbyterian- 
ism, they knew that he hated and despised Archbishop 
Sharp. They did not know that his only policy now was 
to carry out every wish of the king, and thus promote his 
own interests. Yet, with all his selfishness, there must 
have been a singular charm about the man, before drink 
and debauchery had done their work. ** My lord," wrote 
the Presbyterian Principal Baillie, "you are the nobleman in 
" the world I love best, and esteem most." Richard Baxter, 
the famous Puritan, had at first an equally high opinion of 
the man. While we shall see Lauderdale summoning to 
his side some of the finest and best living men in 
Scodand, who admired him and worked with him as long 
as they could conscientiously, finally leaving him, but with 
profound regret 

Burnet was now to feel this spell, which Lauderdale 
exercised so powerfully over those he met. 

" I was not a litde lifted up this summer," he writes, 
" with the civilities that Lauderdale shewed me, and I waited 
"on him perpetually." — Indeed, so frank was their inter- 
course that Burnet dared to expostulate with the all- 
powerful minister, as to the subservience shewn by him to 
the extreme Episcopal party, possibly referring to the Con- 
ventiqle Act. Lauderdale's reply was extremely candid. 

" He ran out," says Burnet, " into a great deal of 
^'freedom with me. He told me a many passages about 

44 Youth, Friends and Early Travels [ch. ii 

'' Sharp's life. He was persuaded that he would ruin all, 
" but was resolved to give him line, for he had not credit 
" enough to stop him. Things would run to a height, and 
"then the king himself would put a stop to their career." 

Lauderdale was probably playing a double game. He 
wished to shew the king and court his zeal for Episcopacy. 
But at the same time, as far as Scotland was concerned, he 
had no objection to laying the blame of the oppressive 
legislation on the bishops. 

It was during one of these visits to Lauderdale that 
Burnet first met the lady who afterwards became his wife. 
This was Lady Margaret Kennedy, the daughter of the Earl 
of Cassilis. She was Lauderdale's cousin, and so intimate 
a friend of his, that scandalous tongues had not failed to 
comment upon it Her reply to such remarks was, ** that 
** her virtue was above suspicion/' and Sir George Mackenzie 
admits that "it really was, she being a person whose religion 
" exceeded as far her wit, as her parts exceeded others of 
"her sex." 

This high-spirited and very accomplished lady was 
thirty-eight years of age when Burnet first met her — 
eighteen years older than himself. She was a zealous 
Presbyterian, and was at this time pleading earnestly with 
the secretary for the material interests of the unfortunate 
Warriston's family. Naturally enough, she would be 
disposed to take an interest in Warriston's nephew. 

Burnet tells us in his usual frank way that at first he 
was not attracted by her, for he considered that she in- 
terfered with politics too much. 

" I thought," says he, " that there were two sorts of 
" persons that ought not to meddle in affairs, though upon 
"very different accounts. These were churchmen and 
"women. We ought to be above it, and women were 
"below it." 

This remark is ridiculous enough when we consider 
Burnet's own career. 

But he goes on, "from a general acquaintance there 
" grew a great friendship between us. She was generous to 
" a high degree, and was a noble friend and a very tender- 
" hearted woman to all in misery, and sincere, even to a 
" nicety." 

At this time Burnet also made the acquaintance of 

1 663] Meets Sir Robert Fletcher 45 

Mr Scougal, then the minister of Saltoun, afterwards the 
pious Bishop of Aberdeen. 

" As I was one day standing with him on the streets of 
*' Edinburgh," he says, " a gentleman of a pale countenance 
'' and in a very plain garb came to us and made me a great 
"compliment in acknowledgment of the kindness he had 
" received from my father at Paris. I thought he was some 
" ordinary man, and did not much mind his compliment, but 
** we went on in our discourse, and he happened to say some 
'* things that discovered both great learning and much sense. 
**So I asked who it was, and found it was Sir Robert 
" Fletcher [of Saltoun]....We had a great deal of discourse, 
'' and I had the luck to please him ; at which I wonder much, 
** for he was one of the humblest and modestest men in the 
"world, and I was then one of the vainest and insolentest 
" His genius lay to mathematics and philosophy, and he 
" wanted a friend and companion in study, so he began to 
"resolve on having me about him." 

Burnet's home-life at this time was not peaceful. The 
fate of her brother had increased, if possible, Mrs Burnet s 
hatred of the Episcopal party, and the family were still 
strongly opposed to his entering the Church. 

" I had many sad things said to me on that subject," 
he tells us. "And my mother laid it so to heart, that it 
" put her into fits, so that we thought she would have died of 
" them. Therefore, to give her some content, I promised 
" not to take orders yet lor a year, and so we were more at 

At Christmas, Burnet went to Yester in Haddington- 
shire, on a visit to the Earl of Tweeddale. Of this 
excellent nobleman, the consistent advocate of tolerance, 
the only man in the Scotch Parliament who dared to vote 
against the unjust sentence on James Guthrie, he has left 
us the following account : 

" He was early engaged in [public] business, and 
"continued in it to a great age. He understood all the 
" interests and concerns of Scotland well. He had a great 
" stock of knowledge, with a mild and obliging temper. He 
" was of a blameless, or rather exemplary life in all respects. 
" He had loose thoughts, both of civil and ecclesiastical 
" government, and seemed to think that what form soever 

46 Youth, Friends and Early Travels [ch. ii 

•'was uppermost, was to be complied with... though he was 
" in all other respects the ablest and worthiest of the nobility, 
"only he was too cautious and fearful." 

At the house of this nobleman, Burnet met his ,two 
friends Charteris, the minister of Yester, and Nairn, minister 
of the neighbouring parish of Bolton. Burnet preached 
in the parish church on Sunday, and never forgot the 
experience that followed. 

"It was," he says, " the first time that Mr Charteris had 
'* heard me. He is a very modest man, and was sorry to 
" find that some good things which he fancied he saw in me 
"were like to be spoiled with pride and arrogance, and 
" being resolved to say something, and yet being restrained 
"by his modesty, he did it in a more effectual way." 

Charteris told him the legend of Thauler the mystic's 
conversion from self-sufficient arrogance to evangelical 

" I heard him," writes Burnet many years after, " with 
" such attention, that I think I remember yet the very words 
" he used, the stops he made, his looks and gestures are yet 
" fresh in my mind ; and it had such an effect on me that 
" there was never anything befell me in my whole life that 
'* touched me more.... I have been often since that time on 
" the point of coming down out of the pulpit, or of breaking 
" off" in the middle, when I have felt violent temptations to 
" vanity seize on me. And I have seldom preached on extra- 
" ordinary occasions, before which I have not very heartily 
" prayed, that if the rubbing shame on me, by my miscarriage 
" in it, might contribute more to the honour of God than my 
»" performing well, that God's will might be done. I confess 
'** I have had another notion of preaching ever since that 
i"time. Till then I had only thought on a laboured and 
"adorned discourse, for which I might be much applauded, 
" but from henceforth I have conceived that the true end of 
" preaching was to give men plain and easy notions of re- 
" ligion, and to beget in them tender and warm affections." 

One of the visitors at Yester House was Sir Robert 
Fletcher, who lived four miles distant. Burnet accepted 
his invitation to Saltoun, and during his - stay preached 
twice in the parish church. The minister of the parish was 
Mr Scougal, and his nephew, John Coibkbum, who was living 


1663-4] f^isi^ to Yester and Saltoun 47 

at the Manse, gives the following amusing account of 
Burnet's visit: 

About this time I saw him first, for I remember well he 
came to my uncle's house at Saltoun, on a Tuesday morning, 
"just as my uncle was going out of doors to Church to preach 
"the weekly lecture. Mr Nairn and Mr Charteris were 
" with him. Upon the first motion, he put on the gown, and 
" eased my uncle of that day's exercise. I remember neither 
" the text, nor the subject of the sermon, nor was I capable of 
" passing any judgment upon it, not being above ten years 
"old. All three abode that day and night My uncle 
" having designed his second son Henry and myself for the 
" ministry allowed us to stay in the room, when clergymen or 
" scholars, from whom anything might be learned, were with 
** him, but we were not allowed to prate or cast in a word.... 
" Next day, after they were gone, my uncle went into the 
''garden and called me to him, saying, John, do not you 
" admire this young man, and do not you aspire to be like 
" him, who as yet, is not above twenty-one, and is a scholar 
" and a preacher, and has travelled England, France^ and 
" Holland } To this I answered rashly No, sir, I have no 
"desire to be like him, for I think him a fool. My uncle 
" turned about, and gave me a gentle flap on the face, and 
"said with an angry countenance. How now, who taught 
" you to speak so saucily of your betters } But come, tell 
" me what makes you say and think so. Then somewhat 
" dejected, I said. Sir, there were three of you there whom 
"all the country stands in awe of. I never saw any who 
" did not observe a reverend distance from every one of you, 
"and seemed afraid to speak in your presence. But he 
" talked all the time, and did not suffer any of you to speak 
"a dozen of words, and he rambled from one thing to 
" another, and he spake several things that looked like old 
"women's tales, as of a strange sort of people, whom he 
" called, the Rosycrucians, whom I never heard of before. . . . 
" My uncle made no reply, neither, as was usual, did correct 
"my observations, upon which I took a little heart, and 
"hoped he was not so angry as he seemed." 

How much of this account is mythical it is difficult to 

This is a mistake of Cockburn's. Buraet had not been on the Continent 
before this time. 

48 Youth, Friends and Early Travels [ch. ii 

say. Cockbum did not love Burnet, and wrote his narrative 
sixty years after the visit. But it is evident that others 
were more favourably impressed than the ten-year old critic. 
The parish of Saltoun was about to become vacant, the 
minister being appointed to the Bishopric of Aberdeen. 
Sir Robert Fletcher, acting on the advice of Mr Scougal (as 
Cockbum acknowledges), presented Burnet with the living. 
The offer came to Burnet as a great surprise. " I had," he 
writes, " moved the Earl of Tweeddale to propose Mr Nairn, 
"and then I had resolved to come into Mr Nairn's living. 
** But he [Sir Robert] declined the motion, at which 
" Tweeddale was amazed, for there was not such another as 
" Nairn to be found. The excuse he made was, he knew 
" Nairn would be quickly pulled from him. And when 
" I pressed him further for Nairn, he repeated what he had 
'' told Tweeddale, and added, that my inclination to philo- 
** sophy and mathematics made him prefer me. I told him 
" I intended to travel. He said it was so much the better, 
** I would be more improved by it, and Bishop Scougal was 
" not to remove for six months, so I might accomplish it" 

In the course of the following February Burnet set out 
on his travels. On his arrival in London he was received 
with the greatest kindness by Sir Robert Moray, through 
whose influence he was elected a Fellow of the Royal 
Society (March 26, 1664), an honour of which he was justly 
proud. Two months later he crossed to Rotterdam. He 
met there many Scottish exiles, but was unfavourably im- 
pressed **by their intolerable peevishness and ill-nature.' 
Thence he proceeded to Amsterdam, where he spent six 
weeks devoted to the study of Hebrew, under the tuition 
of a learned Jew, and also to inquiring into the tenets of 
the numerous religious sects. He became acquainted with 
Arminians, Lutherans, Anabaptists, Brownists, Papists, and 
Unitarians, and found in all these religious bodies, '' some 
" men who were so good that he was not a little confirmed 
** in his resolution never to go in for persecution." 

He was charmed with the toleration he saw in Holland, 
so different from the condition of his own country. ** For," 
he tells us, " there was only a difference of opinion among 
" them, but no heat or anger raised by it, everyone enjoying 
" his own conscience." 

1664] Travels in Holland 49 

The high opinion he formed of the Arminians at this 
early stage in his career is very significant when we 
remember his later theological position, "They, i.e. the 
** Arminians," he says, "were the men I saw in all Holland 
" of the clearest heads and the best tempers ; they had an 
*' excellent sense of the practical parts of religion (particularly 
* * of love and peace), and expressed great readiness to re-unite 
"with the Calvinists whenever they should come to cease 
" imposing their doctrines upon them ; and thought that in 
"these, and many other points, there ought to be more 
"mutual forbearance. This they extended even to the 
*' Socinians ; but they assured me they were not Socinians 
" themselves, yet they did not like the subtleties of the fathers 
" and of the schoolmen in mysterious points. I was likewise 
"acquainted with the Socinians, in particular with Zuicker 
" the author of Irenicon Irenicorum. He was a man of clear 
" thoughts and very composed, and was indeed the devoutest 
"man I saw in Holland.... He was against the doctrine of 
"the Trinity, but did believe that Christ's death was a 
" sacrifice for our sins. I knew likewise the Brownists and 
" Menonists or Anabaptists, who were divided into many 
"little fractions." 

From what he saw of the Dutch sects, he came to the 
following conclusion : — " One thing I drank deep in, at 
"Amsterdam (which sticks still with me and is not like to 
" leave me), which is never to form a prejudice in my mind 
" against any man because he is of this or that persuasion ; 
"for I saw many men of all persuasions that were as far as 
" I could perceive so truly religious that I never think the 
" worse of a man for his opinions. Education is all, to men 
"of weak heads : they never examine the first principles that 
" were infused in them, nor were it fit to put them upon it ; 
"for they, believing all alike, if they began to doubt of 
" some things, that would carry them to doubt of others, and 
" so they would not stop perhaps till they might run too far." 

He spent some time at Leyden and the Hague, where at 
the request of Sir Robert Fletcher he studied the mechanical 
inventions of the Dutch, in this respect so far before his own 
countrymen. He also gave much attention to the government 
of Holland and, stout royalist as he was, confesses how 
favourably he was impressed with the condition of the republic. 

50 Youth, Friends and Early Travels [ch, ii 

What delighted him most was '* the care that was taken 
''of the poor in so liberal and plentiful a manner, and the 
" method in which this was managed, without partiality, or 
"regard to a man's religion." 

He next proceeded to France through the Spanish 
Netherlands. He saw many things but did not make the 
acquaintance of any considerable persons in Flanders^ for, 
as he naively remarks, " many Scotchmen were travelling 
" with me, and they might have made stories in Scotland, 
" if I had conversed much or freely with any Papists. But 
**at Paris I was more at liberty." 

From Sir Robert Moray, who had been engs^ed in 
political correspondence with the leaders of French 
Protestantism, he bore an introduction to Morus, a famous 
protestant minister. Moray had advised Burnet strongly to 
pay special attention to the elocution of the French 
preachers, **for he thought if our English sermons were 
" pronounced, as the French did theirs, preaching would be 
** at great perfection amongst us." 

Morus received the young Scotchman with great 
kindness, as Burnet cordially acknowledges, but neither 
seems to have greatly liked the other. The witty French- 
man told Burnet " that he was too enthusiast ical and would 
'* become hypochondriacal," while Burnet was afraid "that 
** Morus had too much levity in his mind, and was too near 
"a libertine," i.e. a free-thinker. 

It is not surprising then, that Burnet admired the 
delivery of the French preacher's sermons more than the 
matter. " He had," he says, "an inimitable fire, with a great 
** variety of thoughts that lay out of the common road, that 
*' both surprised and pleased his audience. He looked like 
** one inspired, but he had too much of the stage in his way, 
" and those flights that passed well in a pathetic discourse 
** could not bear a strict examination. I was much improved 
** in my style of preaching by what I saw in him, and found 
" a great deal to imitate and correct." 

On the whole Burnet was not favourably impressed with 
what he saw of the Huguenots. 

"I confess," he says, "I thought the French Protestants 
"had no gfreat sense of devotion and did not imagine that 
*' they would have stuck to their religion." 

He did not like the preaching of the Jesuits or the 

1664] Travels in France 51 

friars, ** It had too much of the stage in it." But the 
secular priests pleased him better. ** They preached," he 
says, "more staidly and more like men that were all the 
•* while thinking of what they were saying, I took a good 
"tincture of that way indeed, more than Scotland could 
"well bear, and much more than England could endure. 
** But I have worn off some gestures that looked too like 
•* acting, and yet the way of preaching, which I still hold 
*' (as some that have observed it well have told me), is very 
"like the way of the secular clergy of Port Royal." 

He saw little to admire in French Romanism or the 
monastic systems. He visited many monasteries. He was 
also allowed to converse with several nuns **at grates," 
specially with the daughter of Lady Balcarres. This young 
lady was a convert to Romanism and had taken the veil, 
but she had grown weary of the nun's life and wished to 
escape. She and Burnet formed a plan for this, which, 
however, came to nothing. 

After six weeks stay in Paris he returned to England. 
"I had," he says, "made some improvement by this short 
" ramble, so 1 did not stick to talk of it enough to weary 
"those that fell in my way." 

He stayed three months longer in England, and during 
this time he studied Oughtred's Algebra — the text-book of 
the day — under a tutor. He returned to Scotland probably 
about the end of September. A few days after his arrival 
in Edinburgh, Sir Robert Fletcher came to convey him to 
Saltoun. Fletcher delighted in mathematical study, but 
had not yet mastered algebra. 

" He was," says Burnet, "an humble, good and worthy 
" man. He had a great love of learning, and had made con- 
" siderable progress in it, and his two eldest sons were then 
" under a very exact education, and in the years most capable 
"of it, so he intended that I should live in the house with 
" him, and assist both himself in his own studies, and his 
" sons' tutor in instructing them." 

Burnet evidently preached every Sunday from the 9th 
of October in Saltoun Church, though he was not ordained 
till February. Why he did not at once become the parish 
minister, though he lived in the parish, will appear in the 
next chapter. 




The Act of May 27th, 1662, to use Burnet's quaint 
X words, **set Ep iscopac y on another bottom than it had ever 
" been on in Scotland before." The bishops were no longer, 
as in the first episcopate, merely the presidents of the Church 
Courts with a negative voice, but were now vested with the 
whole government and jurisdiction of the church. Diocesan 
synods were legally established on December loth of the 
same year. The Presbyteries, however, had no legal stand- 
ing, though it was found necessary to revive them for the 
work of the church. They discharged all their former 
functions with the exception of ordination, but as they were 
wholly dependent on the will of the Bishops, the Cove- 
nanters nicknamed them ** meetings of the Bishops' 
** Committee." One of their duties was to examine any 
minister who had been presented to a parish within the 
bounds of the Presbytery, and this examination was no 
mere form. 

At a meeting of the Presbytery of Haddington on 
loth December, 1664, a letter was read from the Bishop of 
Edinburgh stating " that Mr Gilbert Burnet had received 
" letters of presentation from the Kings Majestie and withal 
"desiring the Presbyterie to hasten his tryalls." These 
trials were concluded on December 15th, *'when the 
" Presbyterie appointed him to have a testimonial of their 
"approbation of him." He did not, however, take orders 
till February, for he wished the people of Saltoun also to 
give their consent before he became their minister. 

** I continued among them," he says, "four months before 
" I took orders. I resolved to know all the parish and to be 
" known of them before I would engage myself to them. 

i66s] Early days at Saltoun 53 

"They all came without any one exception to me, and 
"desired me to labour among them." Those who know 
how eager the Scotch people have always been to have 
some voice in the choice of their minister, will appreciate 
the prudence of Burnet's conduct. 

Before the ordination took place, however, he had to 
mourn the loss of his friend and patron, Sir R. Fletcher. 
"A melancholy accident happened," he writes, "that took 
**out of my way the greatest diversion that seemed to lie 
" before me. That winter a great comet appeared and we 
" [Sir Robert Fletcher and Burnet] observed it many nights. 
" This had so ill an effect on him that it brought a fever on 
"him of which he died," on January 13th, 1665. 

Burnet preached the funeral sermon, and immediately 
rushed into print, publishing his sermon (so his enemies 
declared^ without consulting the relatives or friends of the 
deceased. His text was 2 Sam. iii. 38, and the title was 
" A Discourse on the memory of that rare and truly virtuous 
" person Sir Robert Fletcher of Saltoun." It was not a 
great sermon and is well described by the author himself as 
"the rude essay of an unpolisht hand." That it is still 
extant is possibly due to that persistent malignity with 
which the Jacobites followed Burnet during his life and 
strove to ridicule his memory. Sixty years after, Cockburn 
(one of the most moderate of them) writes : — " It was a truly 
"juvenile performance, the language bombast, full of affected 
" words and phrases, and in describing Sir Robert he did 
" not give his proper character, but an imaginary idea of his 
" own brain. He reflected on other Quality calling them a 
" bedwarfed gentry. Sir Andrew Fletcher, brother to Sir 
" Robert, was very much disgusted with the sermon, but 
" more at the printing of it, and therefore sent to take up all 
" the copies giving as his reason, * That it was well-known 
"that his brother was a well-bred gentleman, but Burnet 
" had represented him as a pitiful narrow souled pedant.' " 

Dr Stratford goes even further than Cockburn, and 
maintains that the publication " was designed to make his 
"court to Fletcher's widow." 

This virulent criticism of the sermon of a minister of 
twenty-one is really not deserved. Pretentious phrasing and 
too great display of learning are common faults of a young 

54 Life and IVork in Saltoun [ch. ni 

preacher. In reality the sermon gives a description of Sir 
Robert's character of which his friends need not have been 
ashamed. It describes Sir Robert's love of mathematics 
and natural philosophy, his belief that the progress of 
science would work for the advance of religion. It speaks 
of his piety and devotion, mentioning that he sometimes 
gave up eight hours of the day to religious exercise. It 
tells how '* his spirit was too large to shrink into the narrow 
** orb of party or interest. He judged none of our debates 
" to be of matters essential to religion and howbeit he was 
'* of opinion that episcopal government moderating over, but 
" regulated by Presbytery, might have as strong a plea for 
" the chair as any form, yet he judged forms to be of them- 
'^ selves indifferent, and almost his last prayer was for the 
" unity of the church." On this topic Burnet dilates, " We 
"are become too keen on trivial disputes... the -great and 
" indispensable precepts of the law of Jesus, holiness, charity 
" and obedience are counted but mean and sorry doctrine." 
Gilbert Burnet was fortunate in the county in which he 
began his ministry. The establishment of Episcopacy had 
not greatly disturbed the Presbytery of Haddington. Two 
of the parishes were vacant. The ministers of Athelstane- 
ford and Tranent did not conform, but being old men were 
allowed to die undisturbed. Their assistants, however, who 
were of the same persuasion, were promptly ejected. The 
minister of Bolton had fled to Ireland to seek greater 
ecclesiastical freedom, and was succeeded by Burnet's friend 
Nairn. The minister of Dirleton and one of the ministers 
of Haddington would not conform, but through the influence 
of Lauderdale were allowed to retain their livings. The 
other nine ministers acquiesced in the change, and they 
were men of whom any church might be proud. The 
Presbytery seemed to be a veritable nursery for bishops. 
Scougal became bishop of Aberdeen, and during the next 
ten years no less than three members of the Presbytery 
had said "Nolo episcopari," wisely declining the dangerous 
eminence. Two of their number became professors of 
Theology in the Scotch Universities, while of the six 
" Bishop's Evangelists," who were eventually sent to convert 
the stubborn west, five either had been or were members of 
the Presbytery of Haddington. In his new home Burnet 

i66s] Beginning of his ministry 55 

was surrounded by friends. Nairn and Charteris were in 
neighbouring parishes. The Earl of Tweeddale was only 
four miles distant, while Burnet's cousin, Lady Hepburn, a 
daughter of Warriston, lived in the adjacent parish of 

It was under a deep sense of responsibility that Burnet 
entered on his ministry. 

*' I knew," he writes, '' I had a great deal to answer 
" for to God and the church. I had a perfect health capable 
" of labour and study. I had a good memory and an imagi- 
" nation that was but too lively. I had a copious fluency of 
" expression : all these nature, or rather the author of nature, 
" had furnished me with. I had the greatest advantages in 
" the progress of my life, from my first beginnings under 
" my Father to that day, of any man that I knew. Three 
" of the greatest clergymen and two of the best laymen of 
"the age had concurred to finish an education that was 
" well begun. So I had much to answer for, and though I 
" laboured under a load of self-conceit and vanity, yet I 
" thank God I had gone long under true and deep impres- 
" sions of religion. But I had not kept them up always in 
" one state, I had been often under great dissipation. I now 
" entered upon a more serious view of myself and of the 
'* function to which I was to be dedicated. I resolved to 
" give myself wholly to it and to direct all my studies that 
" way." 

He had been presented by the patron and examined by 
the Presbytery. He had also received ordination from the 
Bishop which qualified him to discharge all the duties of 
the ministry. But he was not legally the minister of 
Saltoun, nor could he receive stipend till he was instituted 
by order of the Presbytery. He seemed to be in no hurry 
to apply for this, for though he was ordained in February 
it was not till June 15th, 1665, that " Mr Laurence Charteris 
" was appointed to give him institution at Saltoun." 

Saltoun, of which he was now minister, is a rural 
parish in the south-west of the county of Haddington, about 
15 miles distant from Edinburgh. It is small m area, no 
house in the parish being more than two miles distant from 
the church, but in the 1 7th century it must have contained 
a population of nearly a thousand. Two county families 

56 Life and IVork in Saltoun [ch. in 

(the Fletchers of Saltoun and the St Clairs of Herd- 
manston), had their residences in the parish. The people 
were chiefly engaged in agriculture. The stipend of the 
minister was 550 merks, Scots, one chalder of wheat, one 
of bear or barley, and two of oatmeal, the approximate 
value of which would be £60 — a good living in those 
days. The Manse (Burnet calls it the parsonage, but this 
term was never used in Scotland), which had been built 
six years before, seems to have been an exceptionally 
good house. Cockbum says there were few better in 
Scotland, while Burnet describes it as " not only convenient 
"but noble." In one of its rooms was a library of 150 
theological books bequeathed seven years before " for the 
" use of the ministers of Saltoun.*' Outside was an excellent 
garden, a good glebe, and accommodation for horse and 
cow. In addition there was — what was considered an indis- 
pensable equipment for a minister's house before the days 
of tea and coffee — a brew house to brew his ale. All these 
buildings were maintained by the heritors or landed pro- 
prietors. In temporalities Gilbert Burnet was considered 
very fortunate. 

The Church, which stood in the centre of the parish, had 
been built in pre- Reformation days, and like many of the 
Roman Catholic country churches was a plain building, 
oblong in shape, without spire or tower, in length sixty- 
six feet. A low stone wall divided the nave from the choir, 
in which were the pulpit and the seats for the gentry. 
There was an earthen floor, the roof was covered with 
*' divots " (turf), there were no fixed seats or pews in the nave 
where the people congregated. Each worshipper had to 
provide a seat for himself, generally a three-legged stool. 
The Church must have been badly lighted, for the 
windows were very small, half wood, half glass ; in many 
churches the windows were not glazed at all. If we 
remember how cold and draughty these old churches were 
we will understand a custom which would seem irreverent 
now. The men kept on their hats, or rather their bonnets 
during service. During praise the hats were generally 
removed ; at the prayers they were drawn reverently over 
the face ; but during the sermon all heads were covered, 
the preacher's included. Three bells rang on the Sunday 

i665] Order of Church Service 57 

morning, the first to remind the people to prepare for 
church, the second an hour afterwards, when a catechetical 
service was conducted by the reader, who was generally the 
schoolmaster of the parish. He led the psalmody, read 
two chapters from the Bible, often asking questions from 
the young people present, and read prayers generally of 
Knox's Liturgy. This service usually lasted an hour, and 
at the close the minister entered the church and all the 
people who were to attend worship took their places. The 
praise during the service was from the metrical psalms 
still in use in the Scottish Church. The precentor read 
two lines at a time and then sang them. At the close 
of the last psalm of the service the Gloria Patri was sung. 
This usage was the only distinction between the Episco- 
palian and Presbyterian service, for no Scotch minister used 
a liturgy. It is stated in nearly every work on the Church 
History of Scotland that Burnet was the single exception. 
This is not correct. What he says is : "I was the only man 
" I heard of in Scotland that used the forms of Common 
'' Prayer, not reading, but repeating them." This is a some- 
what idle boast. Very probably the parishioners of Saltoun 
never knew that their minister borrowed his prayers from 
the English Service Book. Had he begun to read them 
there might have been trouble. 

Burnet's preaching duties were not light, for he had to 
prepare three sermons each week — two for Sunday and one 
for the week-day service. As the sermons were long and 
had to be delivered without the help of manuscript, this 
duty demanded all the energies of a young minister. He 
resolved, however, not to try to get them by heart, but to 
follow the hints which he had received from Nairn. 

" I read the Scripture," he says, "with great application 
'* and got a great deal of it by heart, and accustomed myself 
" as I was riding or walking to repeat parcells of it. I went 
" through the Bible to consider all the texts proper to be 
'' preached on, and studied to understand the literal meaning 
" of the words... I accustomed myself on all occasions to form 
'^ my meditations into discourse, and spoke aloud what OC'* 
" curred to my thoughts. I went over the body of Divinity 
" frequently. . .and formed a way of explaining every part of it 
'' in the easiest and clearest way I could, and I spent a great 

58 Life and IVork in Saltoun [ch. hi 

" part of every day in talking over to myself my thoughts of 
" these matters. But that which helped me most was that 
" I studied to live in frequent recollection, observing myself, 
''and the chain of thoughts that followed all good or bad 
" inclinations, and thus by a course of meditation and prayer 
'* I arrived at a ereat readiness in preaching that has con- 
"tinued ever with me from that time." 

Another of his duties was to catechise or examine his 
parishioners in the knowledge of the Bible and the West- 
minster Shorter Catechism four times a year. "We cate- 
"chised in Scotland," he says, "all old and young, masters 
" of families and servants, except those whose education set 
" them above the suspicion of ignorance. This I did three 
" times a week, except in the seasons of hard labour. I 
" quickly brought all my parish to such a degree of knowledge 
" that they answered me to the sense of the questions I asked 
" without sticking to the words of any catechism." 

Of course there were some unwilling pupils, for we find 
in the parish records the minister complaining "that divers 
"ignorant persons had absented themselves divers times 
" from the dyots of catechising." The Kirk Session promptly 
summoned the offenders, solemnly rebuked them, and 
" ordered them for their better instruction to stay upon the 
" dyots of catechism at least every third Sunday." 

Burnet paid a pastoral visit to every household at least 
twice a year, , and visited the sick every day. He ad- 
ministered the Lord's Supper four times each year, and 
"spoke to every individual person that desired to 
" receive it" 

The congregation seems to have increased during his 
ministry, for the church had to be enlarged. We find a 
petition sent to the Presbytery by Lady Fletcher in 1665 
asking permission "to build ane aile and in it a chamber 
" with a chimney divided by a partition from the place of 
" hearing whereunto Lady Saltoun and her children might 
" retire to refresh themselves betwixt sermons." The Bishop 
and Presbytery granted the request on condition that there 
was to be no chimney. A chimney in the church was too 
startling an innovation in Scotland of the 1 7th century, even 
among Episcopalians. 

\Ve have already mentioned the Kirk Session, which 

1665-9] Church Discipline 59 

was the only ecclesiastical court of the Presbyterian Church 
left practically unchanged in the Episcopal period. It 
consisted in Saltoun of the minister and fourteen elders, 
whose duties were to administer congregational affairs and 
to watch over the religious and moral condition of the 
parish. Burnet in his History gives an accurate account of 
the stem discipline of the Presbyterians. He should have 
stated (as he does not) that the Episcopal discipline was 
equally severe. In strictness, the Kirk Session of Saltoun 
under the moderatorship of Burnet did not come one whit 
behind the sternest Covenanters. In one instance we find 
a woman convicted of what was quaintly called '* a trilapse " 
ordained to sit twenty-six Sundays in sackcloth on the place 
of repentance, and the first three Sundays to stand at the 
most patent door of the Kirk **in sackcloth, bair-headed, 
"until the third bell ended and the minister entered the 
"pulpit." For sixteen Sundays she obeyed, but on the 
sixteenth she pleaded that she was soon to get married, 
so the Session remitted the rest of the punishment, in the 
hope that marriage would improve her. 

Persons were also cited for breach of the Sabbath, 
profaneness, drunkenness, scolding, and fighting, and dealt 
with severely. 

Burnet and his Session were also strict enforcers of 
church attendance. During the service the elders were 
sometimes sent to search the village, and especially the 
public houses. One minute records this result : — " the 
" town being searched all were found at church except those 
" who were necessitat to stay at home." 

Nor was this strictness exercised over the poorer classes 
only. We find Mr Gilbert Burnet complaining to the Pres- 
bytery "that young Hermingston*' (he means Herdman- 
ston) "never attended the church, and had ridden past 
"during time of service." A committee was appointed to 
confer with the young laird, who prudently retired to Fife. 

A very important duty of the Kirk Session was that of 
caring for the poor, to which commendable object the 
church door collections were mainly devoted. The poverty 
of Scotland at this time was appalling, and the records of 
the Session reveal how faithfully and earnestly they tried 
to help the deserving poor. A pretty and well authenticated 

6o Life and IVork in Saltoun [ch. in. 

story shows the generosity of the minister to those in 
distress. One of his parishioners, who was in execution 
for debt, came imploring some small relief. Burnet 
enquired how much would again set him up in trade, and 
on a sum being named, instructed his servant to pay it. 
" Sir, said the servant, it is all we have in the house. Well, 
** well, replied Burnet, give it to the poor man, you do not 
''know the pleasure there is in making a man glad." 

The minister took a lively interest in the education of 
the young. There was a schoolmaster in the parish whose 
salary was a hundred merks (;^5. ii^. \d.\ but there was 
no place for the children to meet except the church. 
Through the efforts of Burnet a school was built, not of 
course in accordance with modem ideas. In a sorry 
building, with a hole in the roof for a chimney, and holes 
in the wall for windows, the youth of Saltoun who sought 
education met They sat on stools spelling out their 
books, or lay extended on the earthen floor striving to 
master the pen. 

These parish duties did not exhaust the energfies of the 
minister. He found time for private study, and super- 
intended the education of the two sons of Sir Robert 
Fletcher, one of whom afterwards became the famous 
Scotch politician, Andrew Fletcher the Patriot. He also 
was regular in his attendance at the meetings of Presbytery, 
which were held at Haddington every three weeks, and for 
some time acted as clerk. He began a movement for 
converting the Papists of East Lothian, which was not 
very successful. But one action of his deserves to be 
mentioned, as showing his toleration towards his Protestant 
brethren. We have noted that in 1662 two Presbyterian 
ministers (the ministers of Dirleton and Haddington) were 
allowed to retain their livings. In 1665 the Bishop of 
Edinburgh resolved to make them conform or drive them 
out. The Presbytery unanimously deprecated the step, 
rave a high character to the threatened ministers, and sent 
Burnet as one of a committee of two to petition the bishop 
in their favour. Possibly the deputation would have done 
litde good had not some other force been at work. The 
result, however, was that the ministers were allowed to work 
and die in their parishes. The experience of the collegiate 


1665] Burnet deprecates persecution 61 

church of Haddington was surely unique. The people in 
that town actually saw what many righteous men have 
longed to see, an Episcopal and a Presbyterian minister 
alternately conducting the services of God s house under 
the same church roof. They could attend the service of 
either minister, none daring to make them afraid. And 
stranger still, we owe this lesson in tolerance to the influence 
of the much hated Lauderdale. 

But if Lauderdale curbed the power of the bishops in 
his own domain, he either could not or would not do the 
same in other parts of Scotland. A most unholy alliance 
took place between the Earl of Rothes — the most profligate 
man in Scotland — and the Archbishops of St Andrews and 
Glasgow, Sharp and Burnet. The provisions of the Con- 
venticle Act were enforced with the utmost rigour. The 
people of the southern and western counties still declined to 
attend church, and the triumvirate resolved to compel them. 
The ejected Presbyterian ministers were silenced or exiled 
or chased from place to place. Ruinous fines were imposed 
on all who refused to attend church or were present at 
conventicles. Those who could not pay the fines were 
imprisoned or whipped through the streets. Sir James 
Turner with a body of soldiers was sent through the 
country with powers to enforce church attendance, or to 
fine absentees without process of law. No wonder Scotland 
was seething with discontent. 

Many of the Episcopal ministers were indignant at the 
high-handed proceedings of the Archbishops. Among 
them were Nairn, Charteris and the young minister of 
Saltoun. Burnet had been studying the Church of the first 
three centuries, and had marked the difference between the 
bishops of those days and the Scotch bishops. The latter 
"observed," he says, "none of the rules while they fetched 
" the chief argument for their order from these times." Full 
[of the subject, and indignant at the mismanagement of 
ecclesiastical affairs, he drew up "a long and warm memorial 
"of all the abuses, and sent copies to all the bishops of his 
''acquaintance. I resolved," he says, "that no other person 
'' should have a share in any trouble that it might bring on 
" me, so I communicated it to no one." 

There is no reason to doubt that Burnet was alone 

62 Life and IVork in Saltoun [ch. in 

responsible for the memorial. Only the author himself 
could have dreamed of its doino^ any good. His friend 
Charteris was a pessimist who believed ** that it was a vain 
" thing to dream of mending the world.'* Nairn had left the 
neighbourhood before the memorial was written. Had 
Burnet consulted them we may be sure it would never 
have been sent. Fortunately, the paper has been preserved, 
otherwise we might have been inclined to sympathise wholly 
with the bishops, who, Cockburn tells us, "were highly 
'^ offended that a stripling should be so insolent and take so 
" much upon him." But the recent discovery of the memorial* 
enables us to consider the other side of the case. To 
describe it as an act of youthful folly is to misrepresent it 
It was an able and trenchant denunciation of the abuses 
which were marring the usefulness and influence of the 
church which Burnet loved. Presumption, self-complacency 
and ostentation of learning are abundantly evident, but no 
less so the shrewd wisdom and common sense, the honesty 
and fearlessness of conviction, the impetuous zeal and 
deep religious earnestness which made Burnet so strong 
a man. 

He begins by asserting that what he is going to do has 
been done by others, with a far greater freedom, and '*hath 
" been taken in good part by those that have pretended to 
" be highest in the Church." He describes the deplorable 
condition of the Scottish Church, "a schism forming, if 
"not already formed, the power of religion lost, and we 
" abandoned to dash one against another, profaneness daily 
" proving and discovering itself, atheism creeping in apace ; 
" meanwhile an inexcusable supineness and negligence hath 
" overtaken the clergy." 

He expresses his hearty approval of Episcopacy as the 
best form of Church government, and his disappointment 
at the result of its establishment. 

" Now this excellent government is indeed restored, but 
" alas it is not animate with the ancient spirit. What is done 
" for the promoting of religion ? the disturbance that the 
" Restitution hath occasioned is evident, but the good of it 
"is yet to come.... What moral virtue or Christian grace is 

^ See MiscelL Scot Hist Soc. il. 340—58. 



1665] Hts Memorial to the Bishops 63 

*' raised to any greater height for your coming in ? Your 
*• non-residence would have been judged scandalous, even by 
** the Council of Trent. How often have any of you visited 
"your diocies. It is now four years since ye were set up, 
"and I doubt if some of you have visited one church.... Ye 
"should be giving them your paternal directions and ad- 
" monitions. Ye ought also to be searching into our con- 
"versations, that ye may know our faults before they be 
" ringing in the ears of the world. You are not Bishops that 
" ye may live at ease and ply the affairs of the State, ye ought 
" to feed the flock. Some of you preach scarce ever. Others 
" only when you are at your own houses, and some of you 
" have their dwellings without the bounds of their diocesse. ... 
" Visit your parishes, preach often in all your churches, and 
see that the people be fed by their pastors, and... and 
undoubtedly the blessing of the Almighty shall attend you 
" in your labours." 

He next speaks of the Bishops wholly engaging them- 
selves in the affairs of State and secular business, an 
employment which all antiquity judged unsuitable to the 
clergy. ** How sad it is," he says, ** to hear the Bishops called 
"the most immoderate of all.... How contrary is it to the 
" meek and rational spirit of the gospel to drive any into our 
" Society by force, or to fyne them that oppose themselves 
" in their Estates, because God hath darkened their under- 
" standings.... Now I must say its pretty odd, that Papists 
" have masses without trouble, and are not forced to keep 
" church ^mistake me not, as if I did disapprove of that con- 
" nivence), and yet the Presbyterians are tossed and harassed 
" if they go not to church, or meet for religious worship, since 
"the principles of the former are incomparably worse.... 
" What violent doings have we seen ? turning out hundreds 
"of ministers, forcing scrupulous people to churches with 
" other barbarous actions....! do not justify the Presbyterians 
" in their humours, I know too many of them are schismatical 
and factious, but I am confident many of them have the 
fear of God before their eyes, and desire to keep a good 
conscience, and might be induced to live peaceably.... And 
" therefore they deserve compassion from all, especially from 
most of yourselves, who were once in the same error (for 
having taken the Covenant and persisting so long in a 




Life and IVork in Saltoun 

[CH. Ill 

" violent profession of Presbytery, you have either strangely 
"prevaricated or were really of that opinion) know 
"what influence, prejudice, education and a misinformed 
" conscience had then upon you, and say as before the Lord, 
" would ye have been pleased had you been used as they 
"are when you were of their persuasion.... Now this I can 
"positively say, that nothing has been done in a rational 
"way to gain them... scarce anything but authority hath 
"been used to bring them in." 

After protesting against some of the bishops "voting 
"and judging in causa sanguinis," he censures the state and 
grandeur they keep up. 

" A bishop ought to be humble... it is hard to persuade 
" who see you live as you do that you are such ....Your high 
" places, brave horses, coaches and titles savour but little of 
" a mortified spirit. And however by your stately garb, the 
"canail and sordid cattell may truckle under you... yet no 
" noble or generous soul will be moved thereby to esteem 



He accuses the bishops of enriching themselves and 
their families "with the goods of the Church." 

"This scandal cries aloud... Bishops are making pur- 
" chases and great fortunes.... You have impoverished the 
" Universities by taking your revenues from them, and the 
" poor ministers must be taxed for making up of this. The 
"blessing of God is not to be expected on an estate so 
" sacrilegiously acquired." 

He next urges the bishops to make stricter examination 
of the character and qualifications of the men who enter the 

" First what sordid means are used for securing presen- 
' tation : . . . Further what sorry and insignificant tryals are 

* those of the presbytery ! Shall the bishops sit down upon 
' the dregs of the presbyterians, and rise no higher with their 

* reforme } Shall a few jejune discourses which the weakest 
^ capacity pick out of books be a sufficient qualification for a 
' minister ? Shall it also suffice to say his conversation is 
' not scandalous ? This is but a negative and may recom^ 
*mend to the Communion of the Church, but not to the 
'order of priesthood.... What crying scandals do go upon 
' the ministers in the West. I am loathe to believe the halfe 

i66s-6] Suggestions for Reform 65 

" of what IS said ; but if they be innocent more might be 
'' done for their justification." 

He next draws the attention of the bishops to the 
preaching of the clergy, of which he has no high opinion. 

"It cannot be denyed that many of the presbyterians 
*' did far outdo us. What are preachings turned to ? long 
''formal discourses often impertinent and unintelligible to 
'* the vulgar.... How dry are our long preachments where the 
"poor people must be worried an hour at least with such 
*' mean stuff. It is your part to see to the correcting of this 
" by acquainting yourself with the way of the ministers, not 
" only in these studied composures, which they may have 
"upon occasions, but with their ordinary way of preaching, 
"that you may be able to advise and direct them." 

He goes on to suggest to the bishops the following 
reforms, the setting up of an order of deacons in the 
Church ; the introduction of a catechism " plainer and 
"more practicable than the Westminster Shorter Gate- 
" chism and not so scholastic " ; the celebration of the 
Communion at least four times a year in each congregation 
(once a year he says is the general practice) ; and especially 
the improvement of the Church Service. "Our Church 
"prayers," he says, "are long, without any order, and often 
" very dull. This Church is the only one in the world that 
" hath no rule for worship. Even the Presbyterians had their 
" directory.... The compiling of a grave lyturgie, the prayers 
"whereof shall be short and Scriptural and fitly depending 
" on one another, should be no inconsiderable service to the 
"Church. Were such a composure proposed without any 
"ceremonies (which are of no necessity and give great 
"occasion of stumbling), and without imposing it upon any 
" one person, it should certainly at long runne turn to our 
"great ad vantage. ... 1 1 were good the form of our praises 
" were amended, these slow long tunes whereby but a few 
"lines at a time are sung are not the best way. And why 
" we have no gospel hymns as well as the gloria patri I see 
"no reason." 

He next pleads for a stricter discipline to cope with "the 
" deluge of wickedness that hath almost quite overflowen the 
" land. The want of discipline is no small defect, for except 
" some ragged relics of Presbytery we have none. The sins 


66 Lt/e and IVork in Saltoun [ch. m 

"of those that are in a higher rank are connived at. It is 
"great injustice and argues a baseness and timidity of spirit 
" to enjoin penance to the meaner, and let the great ones go 
" free. Drunkenness, customary swearing, and scandals of 
" uncleanness are notour of many persons who are daylie in 
" your eye. Is the apostles' rule observed (that with one who 
" is called a Brother, if he be such, we ought not to eat), 
"when persons are your confidents with whom christian 
" Bishops ought not to familiarly converse ? '* 

Burnet lastly assures the bishops that in sending them 
this memorial he is doing them a friendly office ("telling 
" them plainly what others are saying in comers "), and 
concludes thus : " By reforming your own order, us and 
the people, you shall acquit yourselves faithful of the duty 
of Bishops ...heal the wounds of this diseased Church... be 
" highly favoured of God, and to crown all your reward shall 
" be full, you shall be ever with the Lord." 

This extraordinary document, which for plain speaking 
could not be surpassed, was signed by Gilbert Burnet. It 
is greatly marred by a colossal self-conceit. When we 
remember that its author was only twenty-three years of 
age, the presumptuous and impertinent manner in which he 
addresses his ecclesiastical superiors is quite indefensible. 
Yet apart from this it is on the whole a true indictment of 
the bishops who, by their negligence and mismanagement, 
were ruining their Church. The sting of the memorial was 
its truth. Cockburn asserts that the bishops " were at first 
" inclined to let the matter drop " (certainly their most 
prudent course), but they learned that Burnet, contrary to 
his promise in the memorial, had g^ven copies of it to his 
" presbyterian friends." Burnet on the other hand declares 
that the matter only became known through the nroceed- 
ings of the bishops. This result only is certain, yie was 
summoned to answer for his conducIT^ At the first meeting 
Cockburn declares he answered " with his usual natural 
"boldness," and another day was appointed for his appear- 
ance and for receiving his sentence. Archbishop Sharp 
advocated deposition and left the meeting in a passion, 
when the majority, led by Scougal, declared for a severe 
censure. On Burnet being called (Cockburn says) Bishop 
Scougal laid plainly before the offender " his pride, vanity 

1666] Letter of Apology 67 


and insolency, his false and indiscreet zeal, his busy 
meddling without his sphere and without a call, his pre- 
*'varication and rashness to widen the differences of the 
''Church. ..but considering and hoping that he had a deep 
*' sense of his miscarriage, it was agreed upon his humble 
"submission and acknowledgment to let him go with a 
"rebuke. I dare not say that knees were expressly 
" mentioned to me, but I always understood it that he was 
" required to confess his faults and ask pardon on his knees." 
The latter statement is improbable. Burnet made no 
abject submission, as the following letter he wrote to the 
Bishop of Edinburgh clearly shews. 

Saltoun, 5M Marchj 1666. 

My Lord, 

That any action of mine should occasion the 
least displeasure or trouble to my superiors cannot but 
much vex myself. The judging a reformation to be 
necessary is a thought I cannot avoid. All ranks, both of the 
clergy and laity, have sinned, and all ought to be reformed, 
and till this be carried out no external amendments will 
recover us. — My Lord, my desire of this engaged me to 
represent to yourself, with others of my Lords the Bishops, 
my thoughts in order to it wherein (altho* I conceive I 
grounded them upon authority not to be contemned) I 
assumed not in the least to dictate, only to propose my own 
opinion with the grounds inducing me- to it. This I 
intended neither for any public discoursing nor private 
reproaching either of your orders or persons, to both of 
which I shall pay all due esteem, but for a plain representa- 
tion to yourselves which, having done without counsell or 
advyce of any, 'tis the lesse wonder if I have erred and 
been mistaken in many things. 

I am sorry that it hath given so great offence: I am 
sure I intended none by it. As for the form of my whole 
paper, or the particular expressions of it, or the manner of 
addressing it, I shall not stand to justify them, but wherein 
I have transgressed do beg pardon. I shall only desire 
that, be it never so irregularly done, the matter be impartially 
weighed, that so good a cause suffer not by my meddling 


68 Life and JVork in Saltoun [cam 

in it, but that a reformation of all abuses that be among us 
be vigorously promoted ; that, the Church and Churchmen 
being purified, the work of religion be zealously advanced. 
And how difficult soever this may appear at a distance, I 
am assured that when gone about it shall be found both 
easy and of unspeakable satisfaction to those who apply 
themselves to it, and by the blessing of God, which is never 
wanting to such endeavours, shall greatly redound to the 
infinite advantage of this so desolate and broken Church. 
I shall never cease to pray for it, and shall labour patiently 
and wait for His coming Who will make all things new. 
Meanwhile I shall endeavour to carry myself so that 
neither by the letting this abroad nor any other way 
ought may come from me which is contrary to the duty of 

My Lord, 

Your most humble and most obedient son and servant, 

Gilbert Burnet. 

This dignified letter shews us that Burnet could get out 
of a difficult situation remarkably well. Of course his 
memorial could not be kept secret : too many had seen it. But 
publicity did him no harm. He had voiced the sentiments 
of the nation, and Scotsmen must have enjoyed the 
spectacle of a young man bearding the dreaded bishops. 

He describes with great moderation the various opinions 
regarding his memorial : 

** What I had ventured on was variously censured, but 
** the greater part approved of it. Lauderdale and all his 
** friends were delighted with it, and he gave the king an 
'* account of it, who was not ill pleased at it." 

This is very probable. Charles II had a keen sense 
of humour. 

What Burnet felt most acutely in the Episcopal censure 
was the accusation that his action was due to vain-glory. 

** I resolved," he says, "to let the world see that I had 
" done nothing in design to make myself popular. I retired 
'*from company, I stayed constantly at home, I entered into 
" an ascetic course for two years." We shall see with what 

Meanwhile public events quickly vindicated the wisdom 

1666-7] Experience of Asceticism 69 

of his criticism of the bishops. Sir James Turner 
was again sent to the southern and western counties to 
coerce the stubborn Presbyterians. Maddened by his 
oppressive exactions the peasantry rose in rebellion. Ill 
disciplined and badly armed, they marched towards Edin- 
burgh and were completely defeated at Rullion Green. 

"The best of the Episcopal clergy (Burnet tells us) 
" set upon the bishops to lay hold on this opportunity for 
"regaining the affections of the country by becoming 
"intercessors for the prisoners.... Many of the bishops went 
"into this, and particularly Wishart of Edinburgh. ... But 
"Sharp could not be mollified." 

The prisoners were treated with merciless cruelty, 
torture being freely used, till the indignation of the country 
grew so strong that the king felt some change must be 
made in the government 

Probably Burnet took no part in this attempt to in- 
fluence the bishops. His memorial was too recent a thing 
for him to be ?l persona grata in that quarter. His position 
too must have been singularly complicated by the action 
of his mother, who, true to her presbyterian sympathies, 
was hiding one of the fugitive ministers in her house in 

He was, at this time, trying to forget the world. In 
his quiet parish he was living the life of an ascetic and 
studying hard all the works of the Mystics on which he 
could lay his hands. Cockburn's remarks on this attempt 
are amusing, though not without a touch of malice. " He— 
" [Burnet] — ^shewed all the airs of zeal and piety and made 
" as if he would imitate the austerities of the ancient monks 
"and hermits...and live up to the strict rules which 
"St Chrysostom, St Gregory and St Ambrose prescribe 
"to the clergy. But the constitution of his body could 
"not bear austerities or severe penances, nor could his 
"pragmatical genius endure retirement." 

With his usual zeal and earnestness, however, Burnet 
gave his new method a fair trial. He persevered in it for 
two years, till, as he says : 

" The whole mass of my blood was corrupted so that 
'*two great fevers in two subsequent years convinced me 
" that I ought not to continue longer in that manner of ill 

yo Life and IVork in Saltoun [ch. hi 

"food." The second attack was exceptionally severe. It 
continued thirty days, and he tells us, '* For some hours 
** I seemed to be in the last agony and for some minutes lay 
"as dead." 

To this period of his illness we may refer the following 
anecdote. Burnet's mother was summoned to his sick-bed. 
During the delirium of the fever, the patient, imagining that 
he was to entertain Archbishop Sharp, cried — "Where shall 
"we find a place for the Archbishop"? The old lady, 
forgetful of her son's condition, replied — " Do not let that 
" disturb you my dear : we will find a place for him in the 
"hottest corner of hell." 

Burnet had too much sense not to perceive at last the 
unhealthiness of the life he was living. He thus describes 
the effect it had on his spiritual condition : — " I learned indeed 
" to neglect my body and live upon little. I grew to despise 
'* the world and had so little need of wealth that I contemned 
"it. I loved solitude and silence, and so I avoided many 
" tentations, but I was out of measure conceited of myself, 
" vain and desirous of fame beyond expression. I grew into 
" a superstitious overvaluing of the severities I underwent, 
" and became very scrupulous in all the circumstances relating 
" to them. The worst of all was I undervalued all who did 
"not practise the same things. I never felt any internal 
" apprehensions of extraordinary impulses, though I cannot 
" deny that I desired mightily to feel them if such things 
" were to be felt, and I was sometimes very near a resolution 
" of abandoning the world, and of going into some remote 
" place in a disguised habit where none knew me, that so I 
" might instruct poor people as being one of themselves." 

From such morbid fancies Burnet was roused by the 
great change that had taken place in the government of 
Scotland. The indignant representations that had been 
made to the king by Tweeddale, Kincardine and Sir Robert 
Moray concerning the misgovernment and the cruel treat- 
ment of Scotland had at last produced the desired effect. 
In April 1667 the Earl of Kincardine came north and 
informed Burnet that " Lord Rothes was to be stripped 
" of all his places, and to be only Lord Chancellor. The 
" Earl of Tweeddale and Sir Robert Moray were to have 
" the secret in their hands... the army would be disbanded. 

166;] Change of Goverufnent Ji 

" and tilings would be managed with more temper both in 
" Church and State. This was then so great a secret that 
"neither the Lord Rothes nor the two Archbishops had 
"the least hint of it." 

The welcome change, hastened by the successes of the 
Dutch fleet, took place in June. Tweeddale and Moray, 
men of sense and exemplary conduct, held the reins of 
government, and a better day seemed to be dawning for 
the distressed country. 

" There was a great application to business " (Burnet 
tells us), ** No vice was held in reputation, justice was 
"impartially administered, and a commission was sent to 
" the western counties to examine into all the complaints of 
" the unjust and illegal oppressions." 

An attempt was now made to bring peace to the dis- 
tracted Church. The project was not an easy one. The 
two-fold difficulty faced the authorities, what to do with the 
Presbyterian ministers who had been ejected, and how to 
deal with those who had taken their place. The latter 
problem was quite as difficult as the former, for the men 
who had succeeded to the livings were as unsatisfactory 
a class of ministers as any Protestant Church ever had. 

Sir Robert Moray, after his tour in the west, expressed 
the opinion "that, they were such a set of men, so ignorant 
" and so scandalous, that it was not possible to support them 
" unless the greatest part of them could be turned out and 
"better men put in their places. But it was not easy to 
"know how this could be done. Archbishop Burnet had 
" placed them all, and he thought himself in some sort bound 
" to protect them. The clergy were so linked together that 
" none of them could be got to concur in getting proofs of 
" crimes brought against their brethren and the people of the 
"country... said to accuse a minister before a bishop. ..was a 
" homologating his power. So Moray proposed that a court 
"should be constituted by a special commission from the 
" king, made up of some laity as well as the clergy, to try 
" the truth of these scandalous reports." 

The difficulties in the way of this drastic Erastian 
measure were so great that the proposal came to nought 
The diocese of Glasgow remained the weak spot in the 
Episcopal Church. On the withdrawal of the soldiers the 

72 Life and IVork in Saltoun [ch. iii 

churches became empty, and the people began to ill-treat 
the ministers in the hope of frightening them away. 

With regard to the ousted Presbyterian ministers, 
Tweeddale's scheme was to place the ablest and most 
law-abiding of them in vacant parishes. Certain conditions 
were laid upon them, but they were not required to 
acknowledge the bishops' authority nor to attend the 
synods and presbyteries. This scheme, known by the 
name of ''the Indulgence," was not put in force till 1669. 
It was kept back because of the attempt of a half-crazy 
Presbyterian fanatic to assassinate Archbishop Sharp in 
July, 1668. The Government also hesitated between 
the rival schemes of Indulgence and Comprehension, 
the latter being strongly advocated by Leighton and 
Kincardine. It is not surprising that Burnet, though 
only twenty-five years of age, should have been asked to 
assist in this policy of toleration. Most of the members of 
the government were his personal friends ; he was the 
confidant of Bishop Leighton, who was to be the chief 
ecclesiastic in Scotland for the next five years ; and his 
former denunciation of the bishops had not yet been 
forgotten. Through his family connection with the leading 
Presbyterians, he was able to give the government valuable 
assistance in the necessary negotiations. 

During a visit to Edinburgh he had been introduced by 
Sir Robert Moray to the Duchess of Hamilton. Her 
intimate friend was Lady Margaret Kennedy, Burnet's 
future wife. Both ladies were zealous Presbyterians. 

" She was," says Burnet, " a woman of great under- 
" standing, eminently devout and charitable, and indeed a 
'* pattern of virtue. She would never dispute in matters of 
" speculation, but went on this ground, that the Presbyterians 
*' were better men, better preachers, and more successful in 
"their labours than the Episcopal clergy." 

Burnet gladly accepted her invitation to Hamilton 
Palace, a visit which proved of great consequence to his 
career in more ways than one. While there he became 
acquainted with the Rector of the University of Glasgow. 
Burnet had already written an interesting little treatise 
entitled " Thoughts on Education." It is addressed to a 
nobleman, probably Lord Kincardine. Tinged here and 

i668] First Political IVork 73 

there \nth the utopianism natural at twenty-five, the book 
is also distinguished by robust good sense. With its 
classical and modem "sides," it might well interest 
educationists of the present day. He dissents emphati- 
cally from the severity usually practised at the time. 
''Nature," he says, "made children, children and not 
"men." His method of teaching Latin is admirably 
practical. Greek, for an ordinary country gentleman, he 
scarcely recommends, though he considers it an advantage 
to read the Testament in its original tongue, and from that 
point of view even Hebrew may be studied. French, 
Spanish and Italian can be easily acquired through Latin, 
but German he thinks unnecessary, as all Germans write 
in Latin. History, with an apparatus of well illuminated 
maps, botany, natural history, chemistry, some mathematics 
and astronomy, and the art of fortification, should form part 
of the curriculum, while the theory of music and the study 
of architecture and statuary should not be ignored. The 
history of the Philosophic sects should be taught, and the 
training may wind up with a little rhetoric and logic, all 
the difference between these being that *' one is reason in a 
" court dress, the other in a military garb." A good English 
style, both in writing and reading, must not be neglected. 
Field sports should be encouraged. Gardening, music, 
painting, mechanics and chemical experiment afford agree- 
able pastimes to those interested in each pursuit. 

Such views were probably drawn from his own ex- 
perience when he was taught by his father, and when he 
himself superintended the education of Andrew Fletcher 
the Patriot. Always a brilliant conversationalist and never 
inclined to hide his light under a bushel, Burnet probably 
gave full expression to his views on education in his 
intercourse with the Rector of Glasgow University, not 
without effect as will afterwards be seen. Meanwhile 
political work was not neglected. 

" I stayed at Hamilton," he says, " for some days and 
" I had a very particular information of the state of the 
"country brought me by many hands of different sorts." 
" Things were there in a very lamentable condition. The 
" clergy were a sad pack of people, and were so much hated 
" that upon the slackening of the rigorous execution of the 

74 Life and Work in Saltoun [ch. hi 

" laws they were universally deserted. Scandalous reports 
*' passed upon most of them, and they were generally 
"believed. The people were running either into gross 
"ignorance or into wild fanaticism. Some of the most 
" extravagant of their teachers drew multitudes after them 
"and filled their heads with many strange conceits, while 
'*the more sober of that persuasion were cautious and 
" looked on without interposing. So it was proposed that 
*' those who were most moderate of the Presbyterians 
" might be put into some of the vacant churches to keep 
"the people in some order." 

With his usual impulsiveness Burnet wrote to 
Lord Tweeddale describing what he had seen and 
heard, and advocating this proposal. He calls it an 
" indiscreet letter," meaning that it was written on his own 
initiative. But this plea for reform had a better recep- 
tion than his memorial to the bishops. It arrived 
when Tweeddale was advocating the Indulgence, and was 
so favourably considered that it was read to the king. 
Such a letter Burnet says, " would have signified nothing 
" had Tweeddale not been fixed in the same notion, but it 
"gave the deciding stroke." If it earned the approval of 
the court he has to tell of another result. "It drew the 
" hatred of the Episcopal party on me to such a degree that 
" I could never overcome it." 

It was probably immediately after his return from 
Hamilton, and just before the proclamation of "the Indul- 
"gence," that Burnet wrote the book entitled "A Modest 
" and Free Conference between a Conformist and a Non- 
" conformist about the present distempers of Scotland, in 
"six dialogues, by a lover of peace." It was published 
anonymously and "by order," 1669. In the stationer's 
preface reference is made to one " upon whose motion the 
" sheets came to be published contrary to the author s design 
"and without his order." The person referred to was 
probably a member of the Government, and a personal friend 
of Burnet's. A letter also tells us that the form of the book 
had been suggested by an English work of the same title, 
and that it had been written " in as few hours as the sheets 
could be transcribed." No doubt Burnet was trying to put 
in print his Hamilton experience. It is a clever, but not a 

1669] The Indulgence 75 

convincing book. The dialogue form is handled with con- 
siderable skill, the scriptural phraseology of the Covenanter 
being imitated with some dramatic ability. The Conformist, 
states in an able and fairly impartial manner the position of 
the moderate Episcopalian, but, as might be expected, the 
arguments of the Nonconformist are weak and do not well 
represent his side of the controversy. Burnet's censures 
on the conduct of the Presbyterians, both before and after 
the Restoration, are very like those of his History. His 
Erastian views and his statement of the doctrine of passive 
obedience, though more amply developed in a later tract, are 
clearly outlined. 

The book attracted much attention, and drew forth 
bitter replies in which somewhat reckless charges of heresy 
were hurled against the author. In a second edition Burnet 
added a seventh dialogue praising the Indulgence and 
maintaining his orthodoxy. It is needless to say that the 
book did not convince the Presbyterians. As a witty poet 
sang, they were men 

"Whose stubborn hearts could not be turned 
"By dialogues of Gibby Burnet." 

On June 7th, 1669, the Indulgence received the royal 
sanction. The Privy Council was ordered ** to appoint so 
*' many of the outed ministers as have lived peaceably and 
" orderly in the places where they have resided to exercise 
"the functions of their ministry in vacant parishes — "... 
subject to the approval of the king's ministers. To those 
ministers for whom vacant parishes could not be found, a 
yearly pension of ;^20 (four hundred merks) was to be 
given. The latter provision was never put in force, for none 
of the Presbyterians would accept it. ** They looked on it 
as the "king's hire to be silent, and not to do their duty." 

The first provision was received with more favour as 
the promise of better things. Forty-two ministers were ap- 
pointed within the year to vacant parishes, among whom were 
the learned George Hutcheson and the well-known Robert 
Douglas who was placed in Pencaitland, a parish adjacent 
to Saltoun. The ministers thanked the king for this favour, 
promising " that they should at all times give such obedience 
"to laws and orders as could stand with a good conscience." 

But the Indulgence was not generously administered. 

76 Life and IVork in Saltoun [ch. hi 

Only a small minority of the Presbyterian ministers received 
the benefit of it, and their position was made irksome 
by ever-increasing restrictions. They were censured if 
people from other parishes resorted to their preaching, or if 
they admitted such to Communion or baptized their children. 
They were forbidden to lecture in their own pulpit, or to 
preach out of their own parishes. They were prohibited 
even from going out of the parish, unless with the 
express permission of the Council. The people who at 
first had hailed the Indulgence with gladness gradually 
grew disgusted with such bald Erastianism. They soon 
perceived the danger that threatened the very existence of 
Presbyterianism. The ministers who submitted to the 
restrictions of the council were nicknamed *' the king's 
*' curates," and became quite as unpopular as the Episcopal 
clergy. Tweeddale had succeeded in one of his objects — he 
had divided the Presbyterians. He had also destroyed the 
confidence of the people in some of their leaders, but he 
had made the solution of the ecclesiastical problem a much 
more difficult task than it had formeriy been. 

But the first opposition to this famous Act of Council 
came from another quarter. Burnet, Archbishop of 
Glasgow, regarded the Indulgence with dismay. The 
many vacancies which had been made in his large diocese 
by the rash act of his predecessor had never been fully 
supplied, and he had no wish to see those vacant parishes 
filled by Presbyterian ministers. Accordingly in September, 
1669, when the Synod of Glasgow met, a " Remonstrance " 
was drawn up on the Archbishop's proposal, "protesting 
"against the Privy Council's unlawful act." 

When they heard of this, the king and his councillors 
were first amazed, then furious. Protests from Pres- 
byterians were common, and in a way expected, but 
a protest coming from an Archbishop who had sat in 
the Council was beyond endurance. The king bursts 
into unkingly language when he thinks of it "This 
'Mamned paper," he writes, "shews the Bishops and 
'' Episcopal people are as bad on this head as the most 
''ardent Presbyterians and Remonstrators." Lauderdale 
describes it as '*the insolent, impertinent Glasgow paper. 
" That country (he continues) is unlucky. It seems they will 

1669] Lauderdale's Triumph 77 

" be Remonstrators by what name or title soever they are 

Moray — Stoic though he was— cursed it quite as freely, 
and " thought the Archbishop and his whole synod, at least 
" all that command in it, ought to be deposed or banished 
" if not worse/' 

Parliament met on October 19th, and Lauderdale 
resolved to place the Royal Supremacy in the Church 
beyond dispute. There could be no more striking proof of 
his ability than the manner in which he carried the Assertory 
Act which invested the king with supreme authority over 
** all persons and in all causes ecclesiastical/' The Scottish 
Parliament was at this time incredibly servile, but to obtain 
the almost unanimous assent of all classes to an Act which 
everyone regarded with suspicion was a triumph of Parlia- 
mentary strategy. He appealed to the prejudices of the 
Presbyterians and persuaded them to vote for the measure 
in order that the bishops' power might be curbed. How 
the nobility were influenced is well told in Sir George 
Mackenzie's oft-quoted words. 

** Most of the Lords of the articles inclined to the 
" motion, because by this all the government of the Church 
"would fall in the hands of the laws and especially of 
" councillors of which number they were : and the nobility 
"had been in this, and the former age, kept so far under 
" the subjection of insolent churchmen that they were more 
"willing to be subject to their prince, than to any such 
" low and mean persons as the clergy, which consisted now 
"of the sons of their own servants or farmers." 

But Lauderdale's greatest triumph was the securing of 
the assent of the bishops themselves ; for all the bishops 
present voted for it, even Leighton. 

** He was," says Burnet, "against any such act, and got 
"some words altered in it. He thought it might be stretched 
" to ill ends and was very averse to it, yet he gave his vote for 
" it, not having sufficiently considered the extent of the words 
*'and the consequences that might follow such an act ; for 
" which he was very sorry as long as he lived.... He thought 
"he was sure the words 'ecclesiastical matters' were put in 
" after the draught and form of the act were agreed upon." 

/8 Life and IVork in Saltoun [ch. hi 

So passed this notorious Act, which few wanted, and 
many disliked. 

Nor did the government's success end here, on the 
same day (November i6) the Militia Act was passed, 
giving the king authority to march 22,000 men wherever 
he pleased in his dominions. The change wrought by 
the two acts is well stated in Lauderdale's words '* The 
" King is now Master here over all causes and persons." 

An outburst of popular indignation followed this Parlia- 
mentary betrayal of the nation's liberties. Burnet evidently 
impressed by the agitation somewhat unnecessarily disclaims 
all responsibility for the Assertory Act : 

" I had no share in the councils about this Act. I only 
" thought it was designed by Lord Tweeddale to justify the 
" Indulgence, which he protested to me was his chief end 
••in it." 

There was certainly another object. The Government 
wished to punish the Archbishop of Glasgow for his daring 
Remonstrance. He was forced to resign. But he returned 
to the same office five years after a much more submissive 

In the last month of the same year Gilbert Burnet 
was translated from Saltoun to Glasgow. The Rector of 
the University there had not forgotten his brilliant young 
friend whom he had met at Hamilton, and proposed him as 
Professor of Divinity. So Burnet left the quiet East 
Lothian parish where he had laboured so faithfully and 
so acceptably for nearly five years. 

** I confess," he writes, **the lamentations of the good 
"people of Saltoun made my parting with them very hard 
*' to me. It is not easy for me to express the violence of the 
** passion they expressed, nor the many tears they shed on 
" that occasion." 

And the affection was not on one side only. It was an 
admirable trait in the character of this warm-hearted man 
that he never forgot his early friends. Forty years after, 
when he was a bishop of the Church of England, he re- 
membered the little country parish in Scotland where he 
had spent five useful years, and left by his will "twenty 
"thousand merks (about ;^iioo) as an expression of my 

1 669] Burnet leaves Saltoun 79 

" kind gratitude to that parish which had the first-fruits of 
*'my labour, and among whose people I had all possible 
"kindness and encouragement." 

Many memorials of Gilbert Burnet in Saltoun have 
disappeared. The Manse where he lived no longer stands. 
The Bishop s Tree, which tradition asserts he planted with 
his own hands, fell a few years ago. " The Bishop s Loft " 
(gallery in church) was swept away in the church renova- 
tion. But the Communion cups which he presented are still 
used for their sacred purpose, and the minister's library, 
the schoolmaster s salary, the poor of the parish, and the 
children of the public school, are still benefited by the 
Bequest which bears the name and is due to the liberality 
of Saltoun's ablest and most distinguished parish minister. 



Glasgow, where Gilbert Burnet was to find his home 
for the next four and a half years, was then the second 
largest city in Scotland. It is described by the English 
visitors of the period — never lavish with their praise of 
anything Scots — as **a city fair, large and well-built cross- 
*' wise, somewhat like unto Oxford, the streets very broad 
**and pleasant, containing a population of about twenty 
"thousand persons, and having a situation which, for 
" pleasantness of sight, sweetness of air and delightfulness 
" of its gardens and orchards, enriched with most delicious 
" fruits, surpasseth all other places in this tract/* 

The citizens were proud of their University and of their 
beautiful cathedral. The fact that their city was the seat 
of an archbishop called forth a less unanimous feeling. 

"Glasgow," says an English traveller, "is as factious as 
*'it is rich. The most considerable persons of quality 
"are well disposed to the Church. But the disaffected 
"make up that defect with number, and sometimes call 
"the hill-men or field-conventiclers to assist them." 

The wholesale ejection of the ministers in 1662 was 
nowhere more keenly resented than in Glasgow, Nowhere 
was ecclesiastical warfare more fiercely waged. 

Coming from the east of Scotland, where Episcopacy 
seemed to have triumphed, Gilbert Burnet found himself 
among men who would submit to it on no terms. He had 
debated the great question of the day in his " Modest 
"and Free Conference," and had confuted the Noncon- 
formists to his own satisfaction— on paper. The same 

1669] Academic Life at Glasgow 81 

problem now faced him in a form much less easy to 
deal with. He was only twenty-six years of age, and his 
career had hitherto been one of remarkable and uninter- 
rupted success. His character was now to be tried by 
difficulty and failure. 

Of life in the University of Glasgow an interesting 
account is given by a young English Nonconformist, who 
was a student when Burnet was professor. " The good 
"orders of the College were very agreeable to mine inclina- 
*' tion. At five o'clock in the morning the bell rings and 
" every scholar is to answer to his name. The day is spent 
" in private studies and public exercises in the classes ; at 
" nine at night every chamber is visited by the respective 
"regents. The Lords Day is strictly observed, all the 
" scholars called to the several classes, where, after religious 
"exercises, all attend the Primar and Regents to church, 
*• forenoon and afternoon. ...Then in the evening called again 
" to classes, and then come under examination concerning the 
" sermons heard, and give an account of what was appointed 
" the foregoing Sabbath in some theological treatises, viz., 
" Wollebius or Ursin's Catechism, etc., and other religious 
" exercises, and then to supper and chambers so that there is 
*' no room for vain ramblings and wicked prophanation of the 
" day if we were so disposed, and such restraints are great 
•* blessings to licentious youths. — The public worship in the 
" churches, though the Archbishop himself preach, is in all 
" respects after the same manner managed as in the Presby- 
" terian churches in England, so that I much wondered why 
" there should be any dissenters till I came to be informed of 
"the renunciation of the covenant enjoined and the imposition 
" of the hierarchy, etc. There is also a comely face of religion 
" appearing throughout the whole city in the private exercises 
" thereof in the families, as may appear to any that walks 
"through the streets, none being allowed, either in or out of 
" church time, to play or saunter about, but reading Scriptures, 
"singing psalms, etc., to be heard in most houses." 

Burnet was admitted Professor of Theology on Decem- 
ber 2nd, 1669, and began the work with characteristic energy. 
Of his method of teaching he has left us the following 
account. "My chief business was to form the students of 
" Divinity right, and I laid down a plan for it which made 

B. 6 

82 A Professor's IVork [ch. iv 

"all my friends uneasy, because they thought it was not 
'* possible for me to hold out long in it Yet I let no part 

**of it fall all the time I stayed there Every one approved 

•* of the scheme, only they thought it ought to be the work 
"of two or three men.... 

" On Monday I made all the students in course explain 
"a part of the body of Divinity in Latin with a thesis, and 
" answer all the arguments. On Tuesday I had a prelection 
• *in Latin, in which I designed to go through a body of 
" Divinity in ten or twelve years.... On Wednesday I went 
"through a critical commentary on St Matthew's gospel 
"which I delivered in English.... On Thursday I expounded 
"a Psalm in Hebrew, comparing it with the 70, the vulgar, 
"and our version. And by turns on next Thursday I 
"explained the Constitution and the ritual, and made the 
** Apostolical canons my text, bringing every particular I 
" opened to them to one of the canons. On Friday I made 
"the students in course preach a short sermon upon a text 
" that I gave them and... shewed them what was defective or 
" amiss in the sermon, and how the text ought to have been 
"opened and applied. Besides all this, I called them all 
" together in the evening every day to prayers. I read a 
" parcel of Scripture, and after I had explained it I made a 
" short sermon for a quarter of an hour upon it. I then asked 
"them what difficulties they met with in their studies and 
" answered such questions as they put to me. Thus I applied 
" myself for eight months in the year to answer the ends of 
"a professor with the diligence of a schoolmaster. This 
" obliged me to much hard study. I rose early and studied 
" close from four to ten, six hours, but was forced to throw 
" up the rest of the day." 

His great learning, his tireless industry, his religious 
enthusiasm, and, it may be added, his complacent self- 
confidence made Burnet an admirable teacher. Perhaps 
we see him at his best in this capacity. Work was 
his delight. He filled the hours, which his duties as a 
professor left him, by taking an active interest in the 
political and literary matters of the day. But he never 
neglected his first duty. Whether as parish minister or 
professor, or later as bishop, the punctual and faithful 
discharge of the duties of his office was an admirable mark 

1669-74] His Critics 83 

of his character. We have evidence that his teaching was 
jealously watched. In the divided state of ecclesiastical 
feeling in Glasgow we are not surprised that there were 
two different opinions as to the influence he exerted over 
the students. 

Kirkton, the most spiteful of Presbyterian annalists, thus 
describes it 

Burnet was placed in Glasgow colledge, to breed our 
young divines ; and what a fry his disciples were, the Lord 
knows better than the godly people of Scotland who refused 
"to hear them or own them. Some of them declared 
"themselves Papists, as Mr Alexander Irvine and Mr John 
" Row. But their most common politick profession was 
" latitude and indifferency in opinions and questions, and this 
" truely, not because they thought so, but because hereby they 
"were in best case to turn and serve the times without 
reproach of inconstancy, and they knew little what the 
public profession of the land might turn to be. And lastly, 
if you would know what integrity of spirit was among 
"them, consider their last work, the sting in their tail 
" ' The Presbyterian Eloquence.' The authors are said 
"to be Mr Gilbert Crocket and Mr John Monroe." 

Kirkton who is himself severely handled in the scurrilous 
book referred to is mistaken as to its authorship\ Perhaps 
the mistake may explain his savage attack on Burnet's 
teaching. For in fairness he should have given the 
professor credit for ** breeding" another pupil' who led 
the Covenanters at the battle of Drumclog. Indeed we 
may take it as evidence of Burnet's moderation that both 
extreme Presbyterians and extreme Episcopalians never 
hesitated to bring against him the most absurd accusa- 
tions. The latter constantly accused him of being a 
Presbyterian in disguise, while Kirkton lays to his charge 
the somewhat inconsistent heresies of Socinianism and 
Popery. That the Protestantism of the Glasgow pro- 
fessor was beyond suspicion, is shewn by the following 
incident. It was discovered that the Countess of Traquair 
was educating her son as a Roman Catholic. **The Council, 
" therefore, ordained that she should send him to Glasgow to 
" Mr Gilbert Burnet, to be educat and bred at the colledge 

^ The authorship of the book is generally ascribed to " Curate Calder." 
' Sir Robert Hamilton. 


84 Doctrinal Position [ch. iv 

" of Glasgow in the company of the said Mr Gilbert, at the 
" sight and by the advice of the Archbishop," The Council 
evidently considered this the best cure for Popery. 

But another charge brought against him is of more 
interest in the light of his later theological standpoint. 
The Church of Scotland, whether Episcopal or Presbyterian, 
was strongly Calvinistic in doctrine. Certain expressions 
in his ** Modest and Free Conference " laid Burnet under 
the suspicion of Arminianism. In meeting this charge, he 
says truly enough that his words do not contradict the 
Calvinistic doctrine, but with some prudence he declines to 
discuss the question at greater length. The probability is 
that he was beginning to feel his way towards his later 
doctrinal position. 

This tendency is noticed in the contemporary criticism 
of his preaching, for though Burnet had begun to shew 
already exceptional powers in the pulpit, the suspicion of 
his orthodoxy and the antipathy which the people felt 
towards Episcopal ministers told against his popularity. 
Even in his mother maternal affection could not overcome 
Presbyterian prejudice. She did not approve of his pulpit 
ministrations, and is reported to have declared with her usual 
plainness of speech that her son ** would be a bee-headed 
" fool all his life-time... that one day he would be preaching 
" up the Presbyterian interest, and the next day he would 
" preach the contrary and throw down that which he had 
** formerly built up." As sarcastic are the references of 
Cunningham — a bitter enemy of Burnet. He describes 
him as ^'preaching much, and in pompous strains, con- 
"cerning the contagion of original sin, and the strict 
"preservation of virginity and widow-hood ^.. blending the 
"opposite doctrines of Arminius and Calvin with great 
"eloquence and applause to the no small admiration of 
"the vulgar." 

Burnet's sermons must have been delivered with 
unusual vigour. McWard sneers at " his scenical gesticu- 
"lations" and "affected grimaces." Another contemporary 
refers to the same habits in the following lines : 

''Like some school-boys their lessons saying, 
Who rock like fiddlers a-playing. 
Like Gilbert Burnet when he preaches." 

^ Burnet when Cunningham wrote had been three times married. 

1670] Leightofis Journey to London 85 

Burnet knew evidently that his "gestures" were often 
criticised. ** I took," he confesses, ** a tincture of their 
^'(ix. the French) way more than Scotland could well 
*' bear." 

Another of Kirkton's charges is to the effect that " Burnet 
**was a man more disdained in the west countrie than 
"followed in London, for though he speaks the newest 
"English diction, he spoke never the language of ane 
"exercised conscience." The sneer is very amusing; at a 
time when most Scotch ministers preached in the vernacular, 
to speak " the newest English diction " was to be marked 
as a clerical fop. But even from such hostile criticism we 
may infer that Burnet was beginning to develope those 
gifts which afterwards made him the popular London 

If there be any doubt about Burnet's popularity as a 
preacher in Glasgow there is none as to his influential 
position in ecclesiastical affairs. Three weeks after his 
arrival the enforced resignation of Archbishop Burnet took 
effect It was the intention of the government to nominate 
as his successor Bishop Leighton ; but he declined the 
office so firmly that it was found necessary to send him 
to London, in the hope that the king might overcome his 
reluctance. Burnet informs us, that Leighton, on his way 
south sent for him "to know what prospect there was of 
" doing any good. I could not much encourage him, yet 
"I gave him all the hopes I could raise myself to, and I was 
"then inclined to think that the accommodation was not 

During Leighton's absence, Burnet was much consulted 
by the government. He first devoted himself, to hearing 
the complaints of the Episcopal clergy. " They were very 
"ill used," he says, "and were so entirely forsaken by their 
" people, that in most places they shut up their churches. 
" They were also threatened and affronted on all occasions. 
" On the other hand, the gentlemen of the country came as 
" much to me, and told me such strange things, of the vices 
" of some, the follies of others, and the indiscretions of all, 
" that though it was not reasonable to believe all they said, 
"yet it was impossible not to believe a great deal of it.... It 
"was not easy to know what ought to be believed... for I 

86 Cofnmissian of Inquiry [ch. iv 

'found lying and calumny was so equally practised on both 
' sides, that I came to mistrust everything I heard. One 

* thing was visible, that conventicles abounded and strange 
'doctrines were vented in them. The king's supremacy 
' was the chief subject of declamation. It was said that 
*the bishops were indeed enemies to the liberties of the 

* Church, but the king s little finger would be heavier than 
'their loins had been. After I had been some months 
' among them and had heard so much that I believed very 

* little, I wrote to Lord Tweeddale,that disorders did certainly 
' increase, but as for any particulars, I did not know what 
'to believe, much less could I offer to suggest what 
'remedies seemed proper. I therefore proposed that a 
' Committee of Council, should be sent round the country 
*to examine matters." 

The proposal was adopted, and the Committee, some of 
whose members were personal friends of Burnet's, came to 
the West in April, 1670. It was empowered to punish 
those who had committed assaults on the Episcopal clergy 
and those who attended conventicles. It was further to 
inquire into the conduct of the indulged ministers, and 
specially to inquire if they had obeyed the Act of Council 
forbidding them to lecture before sermons. The proceedings 
of the Committee, according to the accounts of both sides, 
were marked by no undue severity. 

Burnet thus describes their action and the censure it 
brought upon himself : " they punished some disorders and 
threatened some of the indulged ministers with greater 
severities if they should grow still more insolent in the 
favour that had been shewn them. I was blamed by 
the Presbyterians for all they " (i.e. the Council) " did, 
and by the Episcopal party for all they did not, since 
these thought they did too little, as the others thought 
they did too much. They" (the Commissioners) "con- 
sulted much with me, and suffered me to intercede so 
effectually for all they had put in prison, that they 
were all set at liberty. The Episcopal party thought that 
I intended to make myself popular at their cost, so they 
began that strain of fury and calumny that has pursued me 
ever since from that sort of people as a secret enemy to 
their interest and an underminer of it" 

1 670] Deterioration of Lauderdale 87 

Meanwhile the political situation in England had become 
extremely complicated. Charles II, having got rid of 
Clarendon, was virtually his own Prime Minister, for the 
five members of " the Cabal " were simply his creatures-^^ 
a cabinet with no common policy and no head save the 
king. The policy of Charles was to keep down opposition 
I at home with the help of French troops and French gold, 
ifi return for which England was to declare war on the 
Dutch and make peace with the Roman See. James Duke 
of York, the king's brother, was almost openly a Romanist. 
Two of the ministers, Arlington and Clifford, were secretly 
of the same faith. With these Charles concerted the mea- 
sures that finally took shape in the secret Treaty of Dover. 
With regard to this transaction, Lauderdale, with the other 
Protestant members of the Cabal — Buckingham and Ashley 
— was kept completely in the dark. His standard of political 
morality had not grown loftier with time. His character 
had deteriorated, and under the influence of the brilliant and 
unscrupulous Countess of Dysart, was fast developing its 
darkest features. His natural tendency was to sink the 
statesman in the courtier and to fall in with whatever policy 
the king approved. In all probability he had agreed to the 
Dutch war and the employment of Scotch troops to overawe 
the English opposition. He had no objection to absolutism. 
But Lauderdale had not sunk so low as to become accom- 
plice in the disgraceful royal intrigue to make England 
Roman Catholic. 

Leighton, on his arrival in London, observed the change 
for the worse in Lauderdale, whose temper, never very ami- 
able, had become extremely violent Tweeddale, however, 
smoothed over things as much as possible. The only condition 
on which Leighton would undertake the administration of the 
diocese of Glasgow was that he should be allowed to take 
measures to include the Presbyterians in the Established 
Church. A scheme of comprehension was not regarded 
with favour at the court, as the king had abandoned the 
same policy in England for that of toleration. But as 
Leighton's help was indispensable, the royal sanction was 
at last given. Burnet had his doubts as to the good faith 
of the king in the matter, and these were confirmed by 
after events. " Lord Lauderdale," he says, " was authorized 

88 Leighton as Peacemaker [ch. iv 

" to pass the concessions that were to be offered into laws. 
•* This he would never own to me though Leighton shewed 
" me the copy of them. But it appeared probable by his 
" conduct afterwards that he had secret directions to spoil 
"the matter, and that he intended to deceive us all." 

Leighton still retained the title of Bishop of Dunblane, 
declining to become Archbishop, though he undertook the 
administration of the See of Glasgow in commendam. 
Burnet, therefore, to his great delight, was now under the 
spiritual jurisdiction of the man he most revered, and 
was ready to give all the help that loyal friendship and 
willing service could bring to the furtherance of the new 

The chief motive which induced Leighton to accept his 
new office was his desire to bring peace to the distracted 
Church. But it may be doubted whether he had realised 
the difficulty of the task he had undertaken. Even at the 
Restoration the formulating of a likely scheme to include 
Presbyterians and Episcopalians in one Church would not 
have been easy. The events of the last ten years had 
almost made it an impossibility. The Presbyterians may 
be called Nonconformists, but not in the modern sense of 
the term. None of them thought of disestablishment, even 
the most fanatical of them strongly asserted the principle 
that there ought to be a union between Church and State. 
What seemed intolerable to them was that the Church 
should be the servant of the secular power, that the govern- 
ment should alter the orders, discipline or creed of the 
Church without its full consent. This principle had been 
violated in 1661 by the restoration of Episcopacy, when 
the orders and discipline had been changed by the secular 
power without even a pretence of consulting the Church. 
The passing of the Assertory Act, for which Leighton had 
voted, had made matters worse, for it gave the king absolute 
ecclesiastical authority. To enter a church on such con- 
ditions meant for the Presbyterians the abandonment of all 
the principles for which their fathers had fought since 
the Reformation. Leighton, on the other hand, was a 
thorough-going Erastian. To him forms and church govern- 
ment were of little importance. He had signed the 
covenants, accepted office under Cromwell, and a bishopric 

1670] The Accommodation 89 

from Charles 1 1 . To induce the Covenanters to accept his 
views was a hard if not an impossible task. 

Leighton's life of quiet retirement had further unfitted 
him for taking part in public affairs. He had little know- 
ledge of men or of business, and the ideals of a recluse, 
however attractive on paper, rarely stand the rough test of 
practical life. His saintly character won the esteem of all 
who knew him. But he was not a leader of men, nor was 
he able to communicate to others the enthusiasm of his own 
ideals. He wanted moreover the persevering ardour which 
endures failure. His earnest attempt to bring peace to the 
Church must command admiration. But he shewed a 
strange and culpable subservience to Lauderdale. He and 
his fellow-workers — Burnet included — deserve to be blamed 
for failing to realise that Lauderdale was using them as 
his tools in carrying out his scheme to establish the arbitrary 
power of Charles I L 

After his arrival in Glasgow, Leighton lost no time in 
promoting his scheme of comprehension or the Accommoda- 
tion, as it was usually called. In this he had the hearty and 
able assistance of Burnet. They first proceeded to visit some 
of the leading Presbyterian ministers to inform them that 
such a plan was projected, and to secure their favourable 
consideration of it. The reception of the two ambassadors 
of compromise was far from encouraging. Burnet thus 
describes it : " Leighton told them that some of them 
" would be quickly sent for to Edinburgh, where terms 
"would be offered them to making up our differences.... 
*'They received this with so much indifference, or rather 
" neglect, that it would have cooled any zeal that was less 
"warm and less active than that good man's was. They 
"were scarce civil, and did not so much as thank him 
"for his tenderness and care. ... Leighton began to lose 
** heart, yet he resolved to set the negotiation on foot and 
"carry it as far as he could." 

Before the meeting took place in Edinburgh Lauderdale 
had added to the difficulties of the situation. During the 
months of June and July, the Presbyterians asserted in a 
most emphatic manner their right of meeting for worship. 
Three great field-conventicles were held " in places where 
" none had been held before." For the first time many had 

90 Conference at Holyrood [ch. iv 

attended armed, and in one instance had successfully re- 
sisted a king's officer who had come to disperse them. 
" That/* says Burnet, **gave a handle to call them the ren- 
" dezvous of rebellion. Some were taken and brought to 
" Edinburgh, and pressed to name as many as they knew of 
" their fellow conventiclers ; but they refused." Lauderdale 
dealt with the matter in his usual headstrong fashion, 
without in the least considering Leighton's negotiations. 
On August 3rd he induced Parliament to pass an "Act 
anent Deponing " which punished with fine, imprisonment, 
or banishment all who refused to give evidence. 

On August 9th, six of the leading Presbyterian ministers 
were summoned to Holyrood House to meet several of the 
Members of Council along with Leighton and Burnet. 
Archbishop Sharp declined to attend, but sent Bishop 
Paterson to watch the proceedings. The Conference was 
opened by Lauderdale with a speech in which he enlarged 
upon the kings great condescension and his wishes for a 
complete unity and harmony. " Leighton followed," so 
Wodrow informs us, '* insisting much upon his Majesty's 
"clemency and benignity, mixing in some bitter remarks 
" upon some alleged evils in the Presbyterian constitution 
" he had observed when among them." 

If there was really any want of tact in Leigh ton's 
speech, the concessions he offered were most generous. 
The Accommodation may be stated in Burnet's words, 
though perhaps full details were not made known till the 
meeting at Paisley. 

** Leighton proposed that the Church should be governed 
"by the bishops and their clergy mixing together in the 
" Church judicatories, in which the bishop should act only 
"as president, and be determined by the majority of his 
" presbyters, both in matters of jurisdiction and ordination ; 
" and that the Presbyterians should be allowed, when they sat 
" down first in these judicatories, to declare that their sitting 
" under a bishop was submitted to by them only for peace 
" sake, with a reservation of their opinion with relation to 
" any such presidency ; and that no negative voice should be 
"claimed by the bishop... that such as were to be ordained 
" should have leave to declare their opinion if they thought 
" the bishop was only the head of the presbyters. He also 

1670] Lauderdale's ''Clanking Act'' 91 

" proposed that there should be provincial synods to sit in 
" course every third year or oftener if the king should sum- 
" mon them, in which complaints of the bishops should be 
*' received, and they should be censured accordingly. The 
" laws that settled episcopacy and the authority of a national 
** synod were to be altered according to this scheme." 

Leighton closed his speech with an earnest and moving 
appeal to all to work together for the peace of the Church. 
On the following day Hutcheson replying for the Presby- 
terians, declared that *' their opinion for a parity among the 
" clergy was well known ; the presidency now spoken of had 
'• made way to a lordly dominion in the Church ; and, 
"therefore, how inconsiderable soever the thing might 
*' seem to be, yet the effects of it both had been and would 
" be still considerable ; he therefore desired some time 
" might be given them to consider well of the propositions 
" now made, and to consult with their brethren about them ; 
" and since this might seem an assembling together against 
"law, he desired he might have the king's commissioners 
** leave for it." 

Lauderdale was not at all pleased with the cautious 
reply of the Presbyterians. 

'* He made us all dine together," says Burnet, *' and came 
" to us after dinner ; but could scarce restrain himself from 
" flying out, for their behaviour seemed both rude and crafty. 
" But Leighton had prepared him for it, and pressed him not 
"to give them a handle to excuse their flying off by any 
"roughness in his deportment towards them." The result 
was that the Presbyterians received permission to consult 
with their brother ministers about the Accommodation, and 
promised to give their answer on the first of November. 

If Leighton was able to restrain Lauderdale's speech at 
Holyrood, he had no control over his actions. The Con- 
ference had little chance of success in any case, but 
Lauderdale doomed it to out and out failure. Three days 
after he passed what he himself describes as " a clanking 
" act," in which all field-conventicles were declared treason- 
able, preaching at them was made a capital offence, and 
owners of land on which such meetings should be held 
were made liable to a heavy fine. 

Leighton was greatly distressed at the passing of this 

92 The Bishop's Evangelists [ch. iv 

act, of which he knew nothing till it was too late. He 
expostulated with Tweeddale declaring, according to Burnet 
that "it was so contrary to the common rules of humanity, 
"not to say Christianity, that he was ashamed to mix in 
" councils with those who could frame and pass such acts, 
"and he thought it somewhat strange that neither he nor 
" I had been advised with in it. The Earl of Tweeddale 
" said the late field conventicles being a new thing, it had 
"forced them to severities that at another time could not 
"be well excused ; and he assured us there was no design 
'*to put it into execution." 

We cannot wonder at Leighton's indignation, but the 
case seemed to demand something stronger than a mere 
protest to Tweeddale. 

It was in such inauspicious circumstances that the terms 
of the Accommodation were made public. They were re- 
ceived by the Episcopalians with a storm of criticism. 
Sharp declared " that Episcopacy would be undermined if 
" the negative voice of the bishops was given up," an opinion 
shared by most of the bishops and the clergy. The 
originators of the scheme believed that the greater part of 
the nation approved of their design, and accordingly they 
resolved to make an appeal to the people. 

Wodrow thus describes the step they took : '* The 
"Council are prevailed with to hire and send west some 
" of the Episcopal clergy, whose fame. learning and preach- 
"ing gifts might most recommend them to the people. 
" They were by the country people termed * the Bishop^s 
** 'Evangelists.* These persons, at least some of them, were of 
" such reputation with their admirers, that it was reckoned 
"all the west would be proselyted by them, or at least 
"very much exposed if they fell not in with them." 

Burnet's influence in this mission is distinctly proved 
by the fact that five of the six men were, or had been, 
members of the Presbytery of Haddington ; while the 
sixth, Mr James Aird, was his personal friend. Of Burnet, 
Wodrow, who wrote after the Revolution, speaks in the 
most flattering terms as a man " well known to the world 
" since, first Professor of Divinity in Glasgow, and after 
" that persecuted for his appearing against Popery and for 
" the cause of liberty, and since the Revolution, the learned 

1670] An Appeal to the People 93 

" and moderate Bishop of Sarum, one of the great eye- 
" sores of the high-flyers and Tories in England, and a 
** very great ornament to his native country/' 

Kirkton is not so complimentary in his description of 
the men and their work. "The men," he says, "were 
" Mr James Naime, their paragon, a man of gifts, but 
" much suspected as unsound ; Mr Gilbert Burnet, a man 
" more disdained in the west country than followed at 
"London, for tho* he speaks the newest English diction, 
" he spoke never the language of ane exercised conscience. 
** Another was Mr Lawrence Charters, a silent, grave 
"man, but most unfit to make country proselytes, because 
"of his very cold utterance, men wondered he should 
"have undertaken it. Then Mr James Aird\ commonly 
" called * Mr Leighton's ape,' because he could imitate his 
" shrug and grimace, but never more of him. Mr Patrick 
" Cook", so ordinary a man, I have nothing to say of him, 
"and Mr Walter Paterson', a man so obscure, I never 
"heard of him." 

Kirkton is equally sarcastic regarding the results of 
their mission. 

" The harvest they reapt was scorn and contempt. A 
" congregation they could never gather ; they never pre- 
" tended to have made a proselyte. In some places some 
" few went to hear them for once, and that was all. In 
" some places they barracado'd the doors ; in some places 
" stole the rope ; in some places the tongue from the bell. 
" So they quickly wearied of this foolish employment." 

If the preachers were made the victims of such boyish 
pranks, it must be allowed that Burnet's account is fair and 
even generous. 

" The people of the country came generally to hear us, 
" but not in any great crowds. We were, indeed, amazed 
" to see so poor a communality so capable to argue upon 
" points of government, and on the bounds to be set to the 
" power of princes in matters of religion. Upon all these 
" topics they had texts of Scripture at hand, and were 
" ready with their answers to anything that was said to 
" them. This measure of knowledge was spread amongst 

* Minister of Torryburn. ' Minister of Prestonpans. 

> Minister of Bolton. 

94 Failure of the Mission [ch. iv 

'* even the meanest of them, their cottagers, and their 
"servants. They were, indeed, vain of their knowledge, 
" much conceited of themselves, and were full of an en- 
** tangled scrupulosity, so that they found or made difficulties 
** in everything that could be laid before them. We stayed 
'* about three months in the country, and at that time there 
" was a stand in the frequency of conventicles. But as 
** soon as we were gone a set of these hot preachers went 
'* round all the places in which we had been to defeat all the 
** good we could hope to do. They told them the devil 
" was never so formidable as when he came transformed 
"into an angel of light... The people had now got it that 
'* all that was now driven at was only to extinguish Presby^ 
" tery by seeming concessions with the present generation, 
" and that the ministers, if they went into it, they gave up 
" their cause, that so they themselves might be provided 
" for during their lives, and die at more ease," A report 
was also spread that the king "was weary of supporting 
" Episcopacy in Scotland, and was resolved not to clog his 
"government any longer with it, and that the concessions 
" now made did not arise from any tenderness we had for 
"them, but from an artifice to preserve Episcopacy.... And 
" because a passage of Scripture was apt to work much in 
" them, that of totcch not, taste not, handle not, was often 
" repeated among them." 

The appeal to the people had failed. The only hope 
which remained — a very faint one — was that the answer of 
the ministers might be favourable. The answer, owing to 
the absence of Tweeddale, could not be given in Novem- 
ber, so Leighton, taking advantage of the delay, made 
another attempt at reconciliation. Five Episcopalians and 
twenty-six Presbyterian ministers met together in conference 
at Paisley, on December 14th. Again Leighton earnestly 
exhorted them to make every sacrifice that conscience 
allowed them, for the peace of the Church. But the differ- 
ences could not be settled. The Presbyterians demanded 
" that the King s Supremacy in ecclesiastical matters should 
"only be a *potestas civilis,'" to which Erastians, like 
Leighton and Burnet, could not agree. A heated debate 
also took place about the priority in time of the offices of 
bishop and presbyter. Leighton assigned to Burnet the 

1670-1] Last Attempts at Compromise 



defence of the Episcopal position, and the professor, 
strong in his knowledge of Church History, eagerly joined 
in the fray. It is interesting to note that the Presbyterians 
were the High Churchmen, taking their stand on the 
Divine Right of Presbytery, while the Episcopalians took 
the Broad Church view, which may be stated in Burnet's 
own words : " that forms of Church Government were in 
'* their own nature indifferent, and might be good or bad, 
** according to the hands into which they fell." Of course, 
it was also maintained that Episcopacy had the strongest 
historical position, and was most suitable to the times. It 
is needless to say that both parties claimed the victory in 
the argument. After two days the Conference broke up, 
no basis of agreement having been found. 

The final scene in the history of the Accommodation 
took place at the beginning of the year 1671. A meeting 
was held in Edinburgh on January nth, when the six 
Presbyterian ministers met the Duke of Hamilton and the 
Earls of Rothes, Tweeddale, and Kincardine, along with 
Leighton and Burnet. 

Hutcheson, in the name of his brethren, firmly refused 
the compromise. Between the nth and the 21st frequent 
conferences were held. But nothing could shake the re- 
solution of the Presbyterians. As a last resource Leighton 
*' oflTered a public conference in the hearing of all that had 
"a mind to be rightly informed." Hutcheson declined it 
as useless and ** not safe." " Mr Burnet," Wodrow says, 
" insulted a little because the Presbyterians would not 
" appear in their cause, which they called the Kingdom of 
** Christ. Upon this Mr Wedderburn accepted the challenge, 
** provided that the Chancellor and Councillors present 
'* would allow him.... But the allowance was not granted, 
" and so the proposed accommodation broke up." 

On the 2 1st of January, 1671, Kincardine wrote to 
Lauderdale announcing the failure of the Accommodation, 
and giving a doleful account of the condition of the Church. 
" To-day we had our valedictory meeting with the Bishop 
** of Dunblaine and those ministers employed by the rest 
'* of the indulged ministers. They declined to give their 
*' answer in writing as they had promised, but submitted to 
" have it taken down, which shews a petty peevish humour. 

96 End of the Accommodation [ch. iv 

'* After this the Bishop had a most excellent discourse which 
"he pronounced in so good tearmes that the answeres 
** which some of them thought themselves to make to it 
** grated on my ears.... He is truly an excellent person, and 
"out-did himself to-day.... Upon the whole matter I know 
" not what to say, it is so hard a chapter. That west 
** countrie is in great disorder, the churches of orderly 
" ministers almost totally deserted, conventicles beginning 
** to peepe out again, the churches of indulged ministers 
** flocked to in an extraordinary manner, about forty 
" vacancies in that diocese, and very few fit to fill them, 
** and nobody willing. And 'tis no wonder that men of 
" any parts should be unwilling to go to live in a place 
*' where they must be in continuall quarrellings and con- 
** tempt, and where they are sure to be hated and contemned 
" of their parish, though they should live and preach like 
'* St Paul. And which is likewise very sad, the orderly 
" ministers amongst them are such pitiful persons, that they 
" can do nothing for the churches or their own reputation. 
** The Bishop says they are neither good enough to keep in, 
" nor bad enough to turne out. What to do for the cure 
" of this is hard to advise. We are to fall upon it next 
** weeke, and 'tis like the indulged ministers will be con- 
" fined by the councill to their parishes, and some strict 
** injunction put to them." 

Leighton and Burnet were greatly distressed at the 
failure of their scheme. They knew they had deeply 
offended one party without conciliating the other. Burnet 
speaks bitterly about the unreasonable conduct of the 

'* Our part in the whole negotiation,'* he says, "was 
** sincere and open. We were acted with no other principle 
"and no other design but to allay a violent agitation of 
"mens spirits... and to heal a breach that was like to let 
" in an inundation of miseries." 

He forgets his own admission that Leighton had an- 
other motive, for in another passage he says : "He 
"proposed such a scheme... reckoning that if the schism 
" could be once healed, and order be once restored, it 
" might be easy to bring things into such a management 
" that the concessions then to be offered should do no great 


167 1] yisit to Hamilton 97 


" hurt in the present, and should die with that generation.... 
" Therefore he went indeed very far to the extenuating 
"episcopal authority, but he thought it would be easy 
" afterwards to recover what seemed necessary to be yielded 
"at present." 

But others had perceived this scheme, and **in vain 
"was the net spread in the sight of the bird." As is 
clearly shewn by their refusal of the Accommodation the 
Presbyterians had come to the decision that ecclesiastical 
orders and discipline were not to be settled by the secular 
power without the full consent of the Church. The per- 
secution which they endured in consequence alienated the 
sympathies of the people from the royal house. It gradu- 
ally destroyed the popular belief in the Divine Right of 
Kings. It also had its effect on the Revolution of 1690, 
whose triumph would not have been so easy, nor so blood- 
less, had Scotland not been made wiser through suffering. 

Meanwhile, Burnet saw the hopelessness of any further 
attempt to carry out the Accommodation. " The roughness 
"of our own side," he says, "and the perverseness of the 
" Presbyterians, did so much alienate me from both that 
" I resolved to withdraw myself from any further meddling, 
"and to give myself wholly to study." 

It was not in his nature, however, to be idle, and he 
soon found new and important work. " I made," he says, 
"many visits to Hamilton, which lay within eight miles of 
" Glasgow, and growing into a high measure of favour with 
" the Duke and Duchess, and having a great esteem of 
" them, I took pleasure to be for some days there, where 
" I was very easy and free." 

It was during one of these pleasant visits that he first 
began to think of writing the Memoirs of the Dukes of 

" I saw by all the common books," he tells us, "that 
" her {i.e. the Duchess') Father had been hated by both 
^' parties, so this inclined me to think he was a moderate 
" man, who has commonly that fate. This gave me first 
"the curiosity to examine into all his actions.... I offered 
" my services to the Duchess to examine the papers she 
" had with relation to her father and her uncle's ministry. 
" She had kept them carefully, but had not then found a 


98 The Hamilton Memoirs [ch. iv 

" person to trust them to. She had such an entire con- 
''fidence in me that she put them all in my hands, and 
'* I read them with great care." 

Possibly Burnet had heard from the Duchess of the 
Earl of Clarendon's application to see some of the 
Hamilton Papers, and this led him to examine them for 
himself It is affirmed by Cockburn that the work was 
entrusted to Burnet only because he promised to vindicate 
the character of James Duke of Hamilton from the severe 
reflections made by Guthry, Bishop of Dunkeld, and also 
from the mistakes made by Sir James Turner in his 
Memoirs. This statement is clearly wrong. Turner's 
notes bear witness that he did not see Guthry's manuscript 
till after the author's death in 1676 and after the publication 
of Burnet's book in 1677. We have therefore no reason to 
doubt Burnet's statement that the idea of writing the 
Memoirs of the Dukes of Hamilton originated with 

Burnet set to work on the Hamilton Papers with 
such energy that he had completed the narrative in a 
few months. But this was by no means the final form 
of the book. It was much altered before permission 
to publish it was asked in 1673. What Burnet had 
intended at first to be merely the Memoirs of two noble- 
men, received a second and more ambitious title — The 
History of the Church and State of Scotland, Pt. //., and 
was evidently meant to be a continuation of Spottis- 
woode's History^. It gives an account of Scottish affairs 
from 1638 to 165 1, a period which it is still difficult to 
discuss with impartiality. In Burnet's time the difficulty 
was immeasurably greater. The veneration for the Martyr 
King was so profound that even to criticise his actions fairly 
was dangerous. Besides, many who had taken a prominent 
part in the events described were alive, and had notoriously 
changed sides. To look for an unbiassed history in the 
state of feeling which then prevailed is to expect an im- 

What Burnet has given us in the Memoirs, completed in 
1673 and published in 1677, is a most readable account of an 

^ It is actually described in some of the copies of the first edition as the 
second volume of Spottiswoode's Hist, of the Cmirch ofScotkauL 



r, ■ 

1671] Character of Charles I 99 

exciting period, marked by great industry, and valuable in 
many respects. Though it is highly coloured with loyalist 
feeling, yet it compares most favourably with other historical 
works of the same time. 

A grave charge against the author is made by 
Hickes, a most malignant critic, to the effect that Burnet, 
after his quarrel with Lauderdale, deliberately altered and 
suppressed passages of the original manuscript, because 
they gave credit to that nobleman. Hickes was either 
mistaken or wilfully misrepresented facts. An examination 
of the manuscript shews that the passages omitted referred 
to Lauderdale's father. The Duke with whom Burnet 
quarrelled receives a higher character in the Memoirs than 
many will think he deserves. 

Burnet himself, however, at a later day makes the 
following confession about his book : '' I did indeed conceal 

* several things that related to the king. I left out some 
'passages that were in his letters. In some of them '\\'^-*^ 

* was too much weakness, in others too much craft and A^^ ^^ 
'anger. And this I owe to truth to say that, by many *^ 

* indications that lay before me in those letters, I could 
' not admire either the judgment, or the understanding, or 
' the temper of that prince. He had little regard to law, 
'and seemed to think that he was not bound to observe 
' promises or concessions that were extorted from him by 

* the necessity of his affairs." 

These assertions may be justified from the letters, but 
it must be confessed that they stand in glaring contrast to 
, the exalted character of Charles I given in the Hamilton 
' Memoirs and other of Burnet's works. Possibly they 
represent the facts in the light of his later opinions. 
The profound veneration for the memory of the ill-fated 
nlonarch is almost incomprehensible to us now. To con- 
ceal facts little creditable to Charles I might appear to a 
youthful royalist, even when writing history, an act of 
loyalty, though twenty years after it might not seem so 
justifiable. The reading of those letters first raised doubts 
in Burnet's mind as to the blamelessness of the Royal 
Martyr. He probably put them aside as the rankest 
heresy. But the doubts had arisen, and these, being 
developed by increased knowledge and experience, changed 

7— a 

lOO Kindness of Lauderdale [ch. iv 

the ardent royalist into the critic of later years. Such a 
change of opinion may be due to a love of truth and not to 
the want of it. 

When news of this work reached Lauderdale, he invited 
Burnet to come to London and submit the book to him, 
" as he was sure he could give it a finishing." At what 
time of the year Burnet went is not quite clear. He 
certainly was in London in the month of August, 1671. 
Of Lauderdale's proffered help, he says : ** All the addition 
'* he gave to my work was with relation to the passages in 
''which he had a share," 

Sir Robert Moray gave more important assistance, and 
suggested that, instead of writing the Memoirs in narrative 
form, Burnet should embody the authoritative documents 
at length. The work having been re-written on this plan 
received from Sir Robert the very extravagant compliment 
** that he did not think there was a truer history writ since 
"the Apostles' time." 

Burnet at this time stood high in Lauderdale's favour. 
" I found," he says, '* another degree of kindness and con- 
** fidence from him upon my coming up than ever before. 
" I had nothing to ask for myself but to be excused from 
**two bishoprics, but whatsoever I asked for any other 
" person was granted, and I was considered his favourite. 
"He trusted me with all secrets, and seemed to have no 

" reserves." 

The position of favourite was not without its difficulties. 
A serious quarrel had taken place between Lauderdale and 
Moray, due to the brilliant Lady Dysart, under whose 
influence Lauderdale had completely fallen. Burnet was 
now asked to break off his friendship with Moray, but 
he sturdily refused. " I told Lord Lauderdale," he says, 
" that Sir Robert Moray had been a second father to me, 
" and therefore I could not break friendship with him, but 
" I promised to speak to him of nothing he trusted to me, 
'' and this was all he could ever bring me to, though he 
**put it often to me." 

Even when Moray, conjecturing that such a request 
had been made, urged his young friend to accede to it for 
his own advantage, Burnet resolutely declined. Moray's 
magnanimity went even farther. The Countess of Lauder- 

1671] Introduced iQ^%ady Dysart loi 

dale, disgusted at her husbancf Si. -/intimacy with Lady 
Dysart, had left him and retired £0 jEfie.- Continent. This 
had become the subject of much public rcoinment, so that 
Burnet had grave doubts as to the proprifet^ of' paying his 
respects to Lady Dysart. ** Sir Robert," he ifells-'»s, ** put 
'* an end to that, for he assured me that there Wks[:fKjthmg 
** in that commerce which was between them besides :a.yjSist 
** fondness." 

Burnet, not yet convinced, questioned Lauderdale, "'I * 
** asked him how he had parted with his wife. He gave 
** me a better account of it than I expected. I knew she 
'' was an imperious and ill-tempered woman. He said she 
'' herself desired it, and she owned that she was not at all 
** jealous of his familiarities with Lady Dysart, but that she 
** could not endure it because she hated her. I was then 
** persuaded to go to her, \i.e. Lady Dysart], and was treated 
** by them both with an entire confidence." 

The evidence of Lauderdale's innocence is not very 
convincing, nor can the witness be described as impartial. 
Burnet must have been very willing to be persuaded. The 
friendship of a powerful nobleman sometimes outweighs 
many scruples. 

Of Lady Dysart he has left us a vivid picture. 
"She was a woman of great beauty, but of far greater 
'' parts. She had a wonderful quickness of apprehension, 
" and an amazing vivacity of conversation. She had studied 
" not only divinity and history, but mathematics and philo- 
** sophy. She was violent in everything she set about, a 
** violent friend, but a much more violent enemy. She had 
'' a restless ambition, lived at a vast expense, and was 
*' ravenously covetous, and would have stuck at nothing by 
'' which she might compass her ends. She had blemishes 
'* of another kind which she seemed to despise, and to take 
** little care of the decencies of her sex." 

This character sketch belongs to a much later day. On 
his first introduction to Lady Dysart, who received him 
most graciously, Burnet was as much charmed with her as 
she was with him. She had already brought about a 
quarrel between Lauderdale and the Earls of Argyll and 
Tweeddale. Burnet having, as he says, the sanction of 
Lauderdale, endeavoured to play the part of peacemaker. 

> - 

1 02 The Church, 'Question [ch. iv 

•• ••'• 

*» • • 

The attempt failed, but'Sp-the case of the Duke of Hamilton, 
with whom also .tjlbne had been a quarrel, he succeeded 
better. ** I gptl^-he* says "kind letters to pass on both 
" sides, and\ put -their reconciliation in so fair a way, that 
" upon mjr peturn to Scotland it was for that time fully 

. -Ti*^* Church question was still the great difficulty in 
-, Gotland. The Accommodation had been definitely given 
'••jaf), but the troubles which it had sought to cure still existed. 
Leighton had consented to accept the office of Archbishop 
of Glasgow, though he had not yet been translated. On 
October 9th, 1671, he wrote to Burnet complaining that 
nothing had been done about the vacant parish kirks, and 
saying, " I am not doubtful of yo' utmost assistance both 
" where you are and when you return." 

Lauderdale had asked Burnet's advice about the same 
matter. " I gave it frankly," the latter informs us, " to 
" this purpose. There were many vacancies in the 
'* disaffected countries to which no conformable men of 
"any worth could be prevailed on to go. I proposed 
"that the indulgence should be extended to them all, 
'P^nd that the ministers should be put into these parishes 
Ij^y couples, and have the benefice divided between 
" them ; and in the churches where the indulgence had 
"already taken place, that a second minister should be 
" added, and have the half of the benefice. By this means 
'* I reckoned that all the outed ministers would be again em- 
" ployed and kept from going round the uninfected parts of 
" the kingdom. I said if this was done, either the parishes, 
" by gratuities, would mend their benefices, so that the two 
" who had only the legal provision of one, might subsist ; 
" and if they did this, as I had reason to doubt of it, it 
" would be a settled tax on them of which they would soon 
" grow weary ; but if they did it not it would create quarrels, 
" and at least a coldness among them. I also proposed 
" that they should be confined to their parishes, not to stir 
" out of them without leave of the bishop of the diocese or 
" a privy councillor, and that upon their transgressing the 
"rules... a proportion of their benefice should be forfeited 
" and applied to some pious use. Lord Lauderdale heard 
" me to an end, and then, without arguing one word upon 

16/1] A Foolish Opinion 103 

"anyone branch of this scheme, he desired me to put it 
" in writing, which I did. And the next year, when he 
" came down again to Scotland, he made me write out my 
" paper, and turned it into the style of Instructions." 

Burnet's scheme was well calculated to produce dispeace 
among those who were so unwise as to accept its terms. 
Collegiate charges have not been a great success in 
Scotland, but to put two ministers in a parish where there 
was only a stipend sufficient for one, would have caused 
dissension among the most peaceable of mortals. The 
scheme was not put in force, however, till the following 
year, and ere that time events had occurred which rendered 
insistence on its most important clause inadvisable. 

Unfortunately for Burnet's reputation this was not the 
only paper he left behind him. In the early part of this 
year his opinion had been asked on a very delicate subject, 
and the answer he gave cannot be counted to his credit 
The king had been married for nine years, and the want of 
legitimate offspring had been a cause of national anxiety, 
especially as James Duke of York, the heir to the Crown, 
was an avowed Roman Catholic. The question of divorce 
had been discussed, while some had even talked of poly- 
gamy. On these matters Lauderdale and Moray had 
consulted their learned young friend, and Burnet, vain of 
his knowledge of Civil Law and eager to display it, had 
given Lauderdale his written opinion. The paper was en- 
titled: Resolution of two important cases of conscience^ viz.^ 

1) Is a woman s barrenness a Just ground for divorce f and 

2) Is polygamy in any case lawful under the gospel f Both 
questions were answered in the affirmative. Burnet was 
afterwards heartily ashamed of this foolish paper, as is 
clearly shewn by the disingenuous account of the trans- 
action which he gives in his History, and the following 
defence written twenty-five years after. 

*' I remember well," he says, " the Duke ^then Earl) of 
" Lauderdale moved it to me. He was the first that ever 
" discovered to me the secret of King James' religion, and 
" when he saw me struck with great apprehensions upon it 
" he fell upon the Head of Divorce and told me many par- 
" ticulars that I think fit to suppress\ I afterwards knew that 

' There is no doubt that Lauderdale deliberately misled Burnet. 


104 Opportunity of Protnotion [ch. iv 

'' the matter of fact was falsely stated to me. I was then 
**but seven and twenty, and was pretty full of the Civil 
** Law, which had been my first study. So I told him 
*' several things out of the digests, codes and novels upon 
** that head, and in a great variety of discourse we went 
" through many parts of it. He seemed surprised at many 
" things I told him, and desired me to state the matter on 
'* paper. I very frankly did it, yet I told him I spoke of 
'' the sudden, but when I went home among my books I 
'* would consider it more severely. The following winter I 
*' writ to him and retracted that whole paper. I answered 
" the most material things in it, and I put a confutation of 
'' my first and looser thoughts in a book that winter which 
** 1 can shew to any that desires it." 

This may be quite true, but it is no excuse. The only 
thing that can be said for him is that Lauderdale was a 
very strong character, whose influence did harm to every- 
one who associated with him. Burnet was no exception. 
His character deteriorates while he was in favour with 
Lauderdale. He paid dearly for this error. After their 
quarrel Lauderdale used it against him, and there were 
always ill-wishers in plenty who never allowed the Bishop 
of Salisbury to foi^et this glaring indiscretion of his 
youthful days. 

Burnet returned to Scotland in October, and at once 
proceeded to Hamilton. Kincardine complains of this to 
Lauderdale in the following letter. " I have not seen 
'* him since he left you, nor am I like to see him in haste. 
'* I cannot imagine the reason of it, for he stayed a fort- 
** night with Duke Hamilton, and rambled through the 
" whole country with him. So it was not want of leisure, 
'* and I should have thought upon occasion of the letters 
" past betwixt us whilst he was with you, that I should 
** have seen him as soon as he arrived if he had no 
" quarrel at me. But I suppose rather it is his humour 
** which cannot hold long at one point." 

Perhaps Lady Margaret Kennedy could have explained 
how Burnet was inclined to linger at Hamilton and neglect 

Shortly after his return, Burnet had again the oppor- 
tunity of promotion. ** Four bishops," he tells us, '*died 

1671] Declines a Bishopric 105 

'* this year, of which Edinburgh was one. I was desired to 
" make my own choice, but I refused them all. Yet I 
" obtained a letter to be writ by the King s order to Lord 
'' Rothes, that he should call the two archbishops and four 
" of the officers of state and send up their opinion to the 
" king of the persons fit to be promoted, and a private 
" letter was writ to the Lords to join with Leighton in 
"recommending the persons he should name." 

It would appear from an interesting letter of Kincar- 
dine's that the names of eight men were mentioned for 
the vacancies. Among them were Nairn, Charteris, and 
Burnet, but all three declined the honour. Yet the offer 
must have been very tempting to Burnet His loyalty to 
Leighton, which was always above suspicion, was a strong 
reason for acceptance. Besides, at this very time, he was 
trying to persuade Lady Margaret Kennedy to be his wife, 
and Presbyterian though she was, the lady would probably 
not have regarded his suit with less favour had he been 
made a bishop. But Burnet was not greedy of preferment 
He believed that he was too young for a bishopric, an 
^^ opinion which shewed his good sense, and so with a dis- 
^ ^ interestedness that is rare, he wisely declined the honour. 
^^ The condition of the Scottish Church may have helped 

him to this decision. Since the failure of the Accommoda- 
tion matters had been allowed to drift The draconian 
laws directed against the Covenanters were still in existence, 
but were not enforced with any severity. Even Wodrow 
allows that ''this year does not afford such matter for a 
" history of the sufferings as many in the period." The 
Presbyterian ministers took full advantage of this leniency 
and held many conventicles. Some daring spirits even 
occupied the pulpits of the vacant parishes. Kincardine, 
writing to Lauderdale on the 8th February, 1672 says: 
** Gilbert here on college affairs, and confirms the report 
** we have heard of the frequency of conventicles in the 
i* Attest as well as in the toune." 

It was in truth no part of the policy of the Court at this 
time to treat the Covenanters with severity, but rather 
to grant to Dissenters in England and Presbyterians in 
Scotland, a toleration they had not hitherto enjoyed. For 
in accordance with the secret Treaty of Dover, war with 

io6 Lauderdale in Scotland [ch. iv 

the Dutch had been resolved on by Charles and his Cabal. 
It was therefore important that the Dissenters should be 
kept in good humour. In order to obtain money for the 
war, the king in January, 1672, stopped the payments of 
the Exchequer for a year, of which step Burnet received a 
long account from Lady Dysart On March 13th, the 
disgraceful attack on the Dutch Smyrna fleet took place; 
on the 15th the penal ecclesiastical laws of England were 
suspended by the king ; and on the 1 7th of the same month 
war was declared against Holland. 

Lady Lauderdale died at the beginning of the year 
1672, and six weeks after, on February 17th, her widower 
married the Countess of Dysart It was a union fraught 
with many an evil for Scotland. Shortly after the marriage 
Lauderdale was created a Duke, and at the end of May 
came with his lady to Scotland in great pomp. '' He 
"was much lifted up," says Burnet, ''with the French 
"success, and... treated all people with such scorn that 
" few were able to bear it He adjourned the Parliament 
"for a fortnight, that he might carry his lady round the 
" country, and was everywhere waited on and entertained 
" with as much respect and at as great a charge as if the 
" king had been there in person. The Duchess carried all 
" things with a haughtiness that could not have easily been 
"borne from a queen." 

These proceedings so disgusted the nobility, and the 
Dutch War was so unpopular with all classes, that 
Lauderdale, for the first time in his career as a statesman, 
found himself threatened with a constitutional opposition 
in Parliament. But it came to nothing, for the Duke of 
Hamilton, the natural leader of the opposition, was prevailed 
upon by Burnet to agree to the proposed war-tax, and the 
movement collapsed for the session. " This," says Burnet, 
"was imputed to the offices done by me, for they" {i.e. 
Lauderdale and Hamilton) " were often upon the point 
" of breaking out, and I was thought the instrument of 
" setting them right, for which I was bitterly censured 
" by those who intended to have made a rupture between 
" them, for nothing could have been then done in opposi- 
" tion to Lauderdale unlesse Hamilton would have headed 
" the party against him. I was blamed as an aspiring man." 

1672] A Courtiers Apology 107 

There is no doubt of Burnet's loyalty to his patron. 
He served him on this occasion better than he served his 
country. Writing long after the bitter quarrel had taken 
place between them, he would never have claimed credit 
for helping the man whom he had learned to hate so heartily 
except it had been true. But we must be careful to 
observe that his later opinion often colours the narratives 
relating to this and the following year. He gives an 
accurate account of events, and describes the characters of 
the Duke and Duchess of Lauderdale with great justice, 
as they appeared to him in later days, but he does not 
confess, with his usual frankness, that he had once held a 
very different opinion. He stood high in the favour of 
both at this time, and he only speaks the truth when he 
says, " there was scarce a person so well used by Lauderdale 
" as myself" But the liking was not on one side only. 
It is always difficult to recall with exactness our former 
feelings of friendship towards one who has become a bitter 
enemy. Still Burnet should have known that in the 
following account he was confusing the opinions of 1672 
with those of a much later date. '* I was out of measure 

* weary of my attendance at their Court, but was pressed 
' to continue it. Many found I did good offices. I g^ot 

* some to be considered and advanced that had no otner 
' way of access. But that which made it more necessary 
' was that I saw Sharp and his creatures were making their 

* court with the most abject flattery. Leighton went seldom 
' to them, though he was always treated by them with great 
' distinction. So it was necessary for me to be about and 

* keep them right, otherwise all our designs were lost with- 
*out recovery." 

No doubt Burnet, with that kindness of heart which 
even Dean Swift could not deny, used his influence to help 
many a friend. No doubt he felt it his duty to check 
Archbishop Sharp's intrigues against Leighton's policy. 
But he attended Lauderdale's court, not because he was 
compelled by duty, but because he enjoyed the society of 
the Duke and Duchess and their friends, and because 
he admired these great personages more than he after- 
wards cared to own. In praise of the Duchess he even 
invoked the Muses, and a copy of his verses still survives. 

io8 Asserts his Liberty [ch. iv 

Maidment has most maliciously remarked '' that the writer 
'* appears to have entertained not an entirely Platonic 
" love for the lady, but soon recovered from his infatua- 
** ation, and from a lover, as not unfrequendy happens, her 
"panegyrist became an enemy/* This is grossly unfair. 
The verses are poor stuff extravagantly expressed ; but 
Burnet s praises are for the accomplishments of the lady 
rather than the charms of the woman. At no time would 
he have denied that the Duchess was possessed of many 
attractions ; but he certainly never addressed her as a lover. 
With all his fondness for aristocratic society, Burnet 
was no sycophant He was very officious in offering 
advice, and his censure was often exasperatingly just He 
was too good a man not to disapprove of much that he saw 
at Lauderdale's court His habit of speaking his mind 
could not have been very palatable to that nobleman, who 
was rarely tolerant of either advice or reproof. Accordingly 
we find him in trouble more than once. 

**I asserted my own liberty," he says, "and found so 
** often fault with their proceedings, that once or twice I 
" used such freedom, and it was taken so ill, that I thought 
** it was fit for me to retire. Yet I was sent for, and con- 
" tinued in such high favour, that I was again tried if 
" I would accept a bishopric, and was promised the first 
"of the two archbishoprics that should fall. But I was 
" still fixed in my former resolution, being then but nine- 

The Church problem was growing more and more com- 

N4)licated. The Indulgence which at first had been so 

popular was now regarded with growing dislike. In 

England the ecclesiastical penal laws had been suspended 

by royal edict, and thus without Parliament being consulted 

I toleration had been extended to all religious sects. But 

\ the people were very suspicious of the king's motive in this 

\ policy. It was generally believed that Lauderdale had been 

commanded to grant the same toleration to Scotland. To 

his surprise the Presbyterians would not ask for it, though 

they asserted their religious liberty in many conventicles. 

Lauderdale, Burnet tells us, " looked on nearly two months 

"after he came to Scotland waiting still for an application 

" for liberty of conscience. But the designs of the Court 


1672] Lauderdale s IVish 109 

" were now clearly seen into. The presbyterians under- 
" stood that they were only to be made use of in order to 
" the introducing of popery. So they resolved to be silent 
** and passive. Upon this he broke into a fury and rage 
** against them." 

About the same time the letters of Carstares (after- 
wards the distinguished chaplain of William III) were 
seized, and though nothing definite could be proved, yet 
suspicions were raised that he had been sent from Holland 
to incite the discontented people to rebellion. ** Upon this," 
says Burnet, ** a severe prosecution of conventicles was set 
" on foot, and a great deal of money was raised by arbitrary 
** fines. Lord Athol made of this, in one week ;^I900 
** sterling. I did all I could to moderate Duke Lauderdale's 
" fury, but all was in vain. He broke out into the most 
** frantic fits of rage possible. When I was once saying to 
"him, *was that a time to drive them into rebellion?' 
" * Yes,' said he ; 'would to God they would rebel, that so 
** I might bring over an army of Irish papists to cut their 
** throats.' Such a fury as this seemed to furnish work for 
** a physician rather than for any other man." 

These words shewed Lauderdale in a new light, and 
greatly alarmed Burnet. His repetition of the conversation, 
as we shall see, was to lead him into much trouble. Lauder- 
dale's rage passed quickly. He summoned Burnet, and 
consulted him about a new measure of toleration. The 
result was that the Second Indulgence was sanctioned on 
September 3rd, 1672, and its terms were practically 
Burnet's London proposals. 

It was at this time that Burnet completed his book 
entitled, A Vindication of the Authority^ Constitution^ and 
Laws of the Church and State of Scotland, though for some 
reason it was not published till the following year. He 
was engaged, he tells us, " to write in defence of the 
" Government against some seditious books that were then 
•* published." These books were the Jus Populi of Sir 
James Stewart, Advocate, and the True Nonconformist of 
McWard, an exiled Presbyterian minister. In both works 
the right of subjects to resist the king when he inter- 
fered with civil or religious liberty was plainly maintained. 

The Vindication consists of four conferences. The 
speakers are Eudaimon, a moderate man ; Philarchaeus, an 

no Passive Obedience [ch. iv 

Episcopal man ; Isotimus, a Presbyterian ; Basilius, an 
asserter of the king's authority ; Criticus, one well studied 
in Scripture; and Polyhistor, an historian. 

The first conference " examines the origin and power of 
" the magistracy, and whether subjects may, by arms, resist 
-their sovereigns on pretence of defending religion against 
"tyranny. And whether the King of Scotland be a 
** sovereign prince or limited so that he may be called to 
"account or coerced by force." 

The conclusion of the discussion — Isotimus, of course, 
protesting — is that subjects have no such right Burnet's 
theory differed considerably from that held most commonly 
in the 17th century. He did not believe that the Divine 
Right was inherited by birth, but that it arose from a con- 
tract between king and people, in which certain rights and 
authority had been conferred on the king with the people s 
consent. This contract could not be broken except both 
parties agreed. As long as the king did not exceed the 
authority originally assigned to him all resistance was un- 
lawful. ** The sword," he says, " is only in the magistrates* 
" hands, and the people have no claim to it... It is true that 
" in case the magistrate be furious, or desert his right, or 
" expose his kingdom to the fury of others, the laws and 
" sense of all nations agree that the states of the land are 
*' the administrators of the power till he recover himself.... 
** The case varies very much when the abuse is such that it 
" tends to a total subversion which may be jusdy called 
" a phrenzy, since no man is capable of it till he is under 
" some lesion of his mind, in which case the power is to be 
" administered by others for the prince and his people's 
" safety. But this will never prove that a magistrate 
"governing by law, though there be g^eat errors in his 
"government, may be resisted by his subjects." 

These are the only instances in which Burnet considers 
resistance permissible. But he maintains that there is no 
case in which subjects are justified in resisting by arms on 
pretence of defending religion. Their duty is passive 
obedience. If the conscience is violated, if the essentials 
of religion are attacked, men must be prepared to suffer 
persecution even to death, but armed resistance is un- 
christian and unlawful. 

In the second conference it is maintained that it is quite 

1672] l^iew of the Episcopate 1 1 1 

within the right of the magistrate to order or change the 
external government of the Church, for it is only in the 
essentials of religion that conscience is involved. In 
external matters the duty of subjects is to obey the powers 
that be. 

In the third conference the wars of the Scottish 
Covenants are discussed. As Burnet believed that the 
king's authority in Scotland was unlimited, he has no 
difficulty in proving that the Covenanters were entirely in 
the wrong. 

The fourth conference examines the origin, lawfulness, 
and usefulness of Episcopal Government. In this we have 
a fine and learned statement of the moderate Episcopal 
view, which may be summed up in the following words. 

'' Since I look upon the sacramental actions as the highest 
*' of sacred performances, I cannot but acknowledge those 
** who are empowered for them must be the highest office in 
'' the Church. So I do not allege a Bishop to be a distinct 
" office from a presbyter, but a different degree in the same 
^* office to whom, for order and unity's sake, the chief 
" inspection and care of ecclesiastical matters ought to be 
'* referred/' 

Burnet retained his Erastian opinions to the end of his 
life. But his views on the doctrine of passive obedience 
\ were to be largely modified. At the time of which we 
are now writing he held this theory whole-heartedly and 
honestly. He clung to it for long after, as he clung to 
most of his early notions, with a touching fidelity, even 
when his common-sense and enlarged ideas were forcing 
him the other way. When at last, driven by the logic of 
facts, he was compelled to give it up, there were never 
wanting critics who taunted him with the discrepancy 
between his views in the Vindication and his conduct at 
the Revolution. Inconsistency, in this case, may be taken 
a sign of growth. But no such charitable estimate can be 
formed of the Dedication of the book, addressed to 
Lauderdale. It was one of the most foolish things that 
Burnet ever wrote. It is fair to remember that, under 
Lauderdale's government, between 1667-72, the Pres- 
byterians had not been much harassed, while most 
earnest attempts had been made to reconcile the two 

1 1 2 Dedication to Lauderdale [ch. iv 

ecclesiastical parties. It is also true that in the dedications 
of the 17th century the author generally addressed his 
patron in terms of fulsome flattery. Still, when all allow- 
ance is made, it is impossible to defend such a dedication 
as the following. 

** May it please your Grace, 

"The noble character which you do now so 
** worthily bear, together with the more lasting and inward 
*' characters of your princely mind, did set me beyond 
" doubting to whom this address was to be made. For to 
" whom is a Vindication of the Authority and Laws of this 
** Kingdom so due as to your Grace, to whom His Majesty 
" hath, by a Royal Delegation, committed the administra- 
** tion of affairs amongst us, and under whose wise and 
** happy conduct we have enjoyed so long a tract of un- 
*' interrupted tranquillity. But it is not only your illustrious 
" quality that entitles you to this dedication. No. Great 
" Prince, greater in your mind than by your fortune ; there 
** is something more inward to you than the gifts of fortune, 
** which, as it proves her not blind in this instance, so 
** commands all the respect can be payed your Grace 
" by such who are honoured with so much knowledge of 
** you as hath fallen to the happy share of your poorest 
" servant." 

Burnet was to find, as we shall see, that this Dedication 
was a most awkward fact. It had been written, he always 
maintained, (though Lauderdale denied this) at the special 
request of the Duke, who asked to see the epistle dedicatory 
before publication. Writing in the year 1696 Burnet ex- 
cuses himself thus ; ** It is no wonder if one, then but 28 
"years old, went too high in the compliment.... If what 
** happened a year and a half after this gave me other 
"thoughts of that minister of state that does not prove 
" that I wrote disingenuously at that time." 

It was probably^ in this year that Burnet married 
privately Lady Margaret Kennedy, the daughter of the 

^ The date is uncertain, Burnet states (a) that he was married 13 years, 
which, as his wife died May, 1685, would place the marriage in 1672, {If) that the 
marriage remained a secret two years. As it became public the same week as 
his appointment to the Rolls Chapel, 1675, ^^s would place it in 1673 <>^ ^^i* 

16/3] The Second Indulgence 113 

Earl of Cassilis. Burnet was of good birth and held an 
honourable position. He renounced all claim to his wife's 

f)rivate fortune by a deed signed before the marriage. The 
ady seems, however, to have regarded the marriage as 
a mesalliance, so perhaps the objections to making it public 
came from her. Burnet, in the following account, takes the 
full responsibility for the imprudent step upon himself. 

"She was 18 years elder than I, and having lived till 
' then in a high reputation she saw a marriage on such an 
' inequality would much lessen her, nor did she think it 
'decent, in me it would have a face of ambition and 

* covetousness ; and of all this I was so convinced that 

* I resolved often to break it off, but my affection was so 

* strong that it returned upon me allwaies and at last after 
' two years sute we were married, but so privately that none 

* but the Bishop of E[dinburgh] who wrot the license and 

* Mr Charteres who married us and two other witnesses 
'knew anything of it, and it continued a secret for two 
' years. This was an inexcusable piece of folly in me, for 

* which when it broke out we were severely censured." 

Meanwhile the second Indulgence did not realise the 
expectations of Burnet. He lays the blame of its failure 
on the manner in which it was administered. 

" The benefit was extended to forty more churches. 

* This, if followed as to that of doubling them (the Presby- 
' terian ministers) in a parish, and of confining them within 

* their parishes, would have probably laid a flame that was 
' spreading over the nation.... But Duke Lauderdale's way 
' was to govern by fits, and to pass from hot to cold ones 
' always in extremes. So this of doubling them, which 

* was the chief part of our scheme, was quite neglected. 

* Single ministers went into these churches, and those who 

* were not provided for went about the country holding 

* conventicles very boldly without any restraint ; and no 

* care at all was taken of the Church." 

Leighton and Burnet were greatly discouraged. Every 
plan they had adopted for reconciling the Presbyterians 
had failed. The only result of their attempts had been to 
make themselves more unpopular with the Episcopal party. 
Leighton, despairing of doing any good, had begun to speak 
of gfiving up his office and going into retirement. Burnet 
tried hard to dissuade him, but in vain. 

B. 8 

114 yisit to London [ch. iv 

In the civil administration of the country also matters 
were going from bad to worse. Monopolies of salt, brandy, 
and tobacco had been granted to the supporters of the 
government, and Burnet tells us that "the people were 
" provoked at Lauderdale's insolence, his engrossing every- 
" thing to himself and a few friends, and his wife and 
"brother setting all things to sale," 

tie was still loyal to Lauderdale, his sanguine tempera- 
ment leading him to believe that matters might be set 
right by a personal appeal to the Duke. The Hamilton 
Memoirs were now nearly completed. But it was neces- 
sary to go to London to obtain the royal license to publish 
/ the book. Ere he set out he received the news of Sir 
Robert Moray's death — July 4th, 1673 — ^ personal loss 
which Burnet lamented as irreparable. 

On his arrival in London, about the end of August, he 
found the city gready excited by the political events of the 
year. Hitherto Charles II had experienced little trouble 
with the English Parliament He was now to find it in 
an angry mood. The Dutch War was extremely un- 
popular, and had brought little credit to English arms. 
The closing of the Exchequer had exasperated the com- 
mercial class. But above all the Declaration of March 
1672 had alarmed the nation. By it the King, on his own 
authority, had suspended the execution of the penal laws 
against papists and nonconformists alike. The provisions 
of the Treaty of Dover were unknown, but it was generally 
believed that the King sought to promote the interests of 
Roman Catholicism. In his speech at the opening of the 
session he had said, ''I tell you plainly, gentlemen, I mean 
" to stick to my Declaration." Parliament, however, firmly 
demanded that it should be rescinded. For some time the 
relations of king and parliament were strained almost to the 
breaking. Civil war even seemed possible, and Lauderdale 
is said to have advised the King to summon the Scottish 
troops. But Charles at last gave way. The seal of the 
Declaration was broken, and the Test Act of March 1673 
received the royal sanction. This Act disqualified from 
holding public office all who refused to take the Communion 
in the Church of England. 

Burnet was received with great kindness by Lauderdale, 
who inquired particularly about the condition of Scotland. 

1 673] Reception at Court 115 

•' I gave him," Burnet says, *' a very punctual and true 
" account of it He seemed to think that I aggravated 
" matters, and asked me if the King should need an army from 
** Scotland to tame those in England, whether that might 
** be depended on. I told him certainly not. The com- 
" mons in the southern parts were all Presbyterians, and 
"the nobility thought they had been ill used... and only 
** waited for an occasion to show it. He said he was of 
** another mind, the hope of the spoil of England would 
** fetch them all in. I answered the King was ruined if ever 
" he trusted to that" — This interview was to have, as we 
shall see, an important influence on Burnet s career. He 
was much disturbed by this conversation. It enabled him 
to see more clearly than ever before the ruthless and un- 
scrupulous character of Lauderdale. He was alarmed at 
the Duke's reckless suggestions, and also at his profound 
ignorance of the true state of feeling in Scotland. He 
attempted to enlighten the Duchess as to ** the injustice 
** and oppression that Scotland was groaning under, but 
" I saw," he says, ** she got too much by it to be in any way 
** concerned at it. They talked of going down to hold a 
" session of parliament in Scotland. I warned them of 
" their danger, but they despised all I could say." 

He had no reason, however, to complain of the Duke*s 
personal kindness. For the purpose of obtaining the royal 
license to publish the Hamilton Memoirs Lauderdale 
took him to the Court and presented him to the King, 
saying, *'Sir, I bring one to you who is not capable of 
'• forgetting anything." To which the King replied, " Then, 
" my Lord, you and I have the more reason to take heed 
" what we say to him or before him." 

Burnet's reception was very flattering. 

"The King," he tells us, *'bid me bring them \i.e. the 
Memoir s\ '* to him, and said he would read them himself. 
"He did read some parts of them, particularly the account 
** I give of the ill conduct of the bishops, and told me he 
" was well pleased with it He was at that time so much 
** offended with the English bishops for opposing the 
** toleration that he seemed much sharpened against them. 
"He gave me back my book to carry it to Secretary 
'* Coventry to the licensing of it" 


ii6 \ Interview with the King [ch. iv 

Coventry was not prepared to grant the license till he 
had read the whole of the book. This entailed a longer 
stay in London than Burnet had intended. The time, how- 
ever, passed most pleasantly. He made the acquaintance of 
Sir Ellis Leighton, the Archbishops brother, but very 
unlike him in character. By him Burnet was introduced to 
the Duke of Buckingham. This nobleman* a brilliant 
man, but notorious for his profligacy even in the Court of 
Charles II, had at this time "set up for a patron of liberty 
" of conscience and of all the sects." He was delighted 
with the conversation of one who had been such a con- 
sistent upholder of toleration, and gave such a favourable 
account of him, that Burnet was asked to preach before the 
King. His Majesty praised the sermon very highly. 
"He ordered me," says Burnet, "to be sworn a chaplain, 
"and admitted me to a long private audience that lasted 
" above an hour, in which I took all the freedom with him 
" that I thought became my profession... with relation to his 
" course of life. ... He bore it all very well and thanked me for 
" it. Some things he freely condemned, such as living with 
" another man s wife ; other things he excused, and thought 
" God would not damn a man for a little irregular pleasure. 
"He seemed to take all I had said very kindly, and during 
" my stay at Court he used me in so particular a manner 
" that I was considered as a man growing into a high 
''degree of favour." 

Burnet was also treated with even greater favour by 

James, Duke of York, to whom he gave a letter found 

/-among the Hamilton papers, addressed to the Prince by 

\ Charles I. The liking which the Duke took to the Scotch 

I professor was extraordinary when we consider the differ- 

1 ence in their characters and views. Their frequent inter- 

\ views were largely spent in religious discussions. Perhaps 

james hoped to convert Burnet to Romanism. The latter 

certainly desired to win the Prince from his Popish errors, 

and obtained leave to bring Stillingfleet to convince him of 

the superiority of Protestantism. The attempt needless to 

say failed, but did not lose Burnet the Prince's friendship. 

London at this time was ringing with discussions on 
Popery, and the royal favour did not prevent Burnet taking 
part. Never idle, even when on holiday, he wrote and 

1 673] Lauderdale's Jealotisy 1 1 7 

published during his London visit two tracts. The first 
was entitled, **The Mystery of Iniquity," an able and for 
the time a temperate criticism of the Popish system. It 
was thought worthy of an answer six years after^ The 
second was entitled, ** Rome's Glory, or a collection of 
" divers miracles wrought by popish saints, collected out of 
" their own authors, with a Prefatory Discourse, declaring 
" the Impossibility and Folly of such vain Impostures.'' 

The royal favour which Burnet enjoyed had now begun 
to excite the jealousy of the Duke and Duchess of Lauder- 
dale. The latter questioned Burnet narrowly as to the 
subject of the conversation he had held with the King and 
the Royal Duke. Anxious to clear himself of all suspicion, 
he replied that he had talked with the Duke about religion, 
and with the King about the life he led. Of this imprudent 
answer Lauderdale was afterwards to make unscrupulous 
use. The displeasure of Lauderdale was increased when 
Burnet did not accompany him to Scotland, though the 
excuse offered seemed good enough — namely, that he was 
waiting till his book was licensed. **I said I would follow 
" as soon as the Secretary should despatch me, and as soon 
** as that was done I took post, and by a great fall of snow 
" I was stopped by the way. But I unhappily got to 
" Edinburgh the night before the Parliament met." 

On his arrival on November nth, he immediately pro- 
ceeded to Holyrood, but was refused admission. Perplexed 
by this unusual rebuff, he went to the house of his friend the 
Duke of Hamilton. There he heard that Lauderdale had 
been speaking strangely of him as one likely to become 
a papist. He also learned that the servile Parliament was 
at last in revolt. 

*' Hamilton told me they were resolved next day to 
*' attack Duke Lauderdale and his whole administration in 
" Parliament. I was troubled at this, and argued with him 
" against the fitness of it, all I could, but he was engaged. 
" He told me the Earls of Rothes, Argyll, and Tweeddale, 
" and all the cavalier party, had promised to stick by him. 
" I told him, what afterwards happened, that most of them \ 
" would make their own terms and leave him in the lurch, 
" and the load would lie on him. When I saw the thing 

> « Anti-Haman " by W. E., 1679. 


1 18 " The Chief Incendiary " [ch. iv 

" was past remedy, I resolved to go home and follow my 
** studies, since I could not keep Duke Lauderdale and him 
" any longer in a good understanding." 

Rudely though Lauderdale had treated Burnet, his 
anger and his suspicion had no relation to Scottish public 
affairs. In fact he was quite unaware that a Parliamentary 
revolt was impending. Next day, however, the storm 
burst. Member after member rose in Parliament to de- 
nounce the sins of the Government. Lauderdale was 
completely taken by surprise and deeply chagrined, for he 
had boasted to the King that he held Scotland in his 
power. He felt now that he was fighting for his political 
existence, and he fought, as he always did in a difficult 
situation, with masterly skill. He gave way where he saw 
concession was unavoidable, and abolished the monopolies. 
He acted on the principle divide et impera, and succeeded 
m bringing Argyll and Dalrymple to his side. In a month 
•he had completely broken the ranks of the opposition and 
/regained all his old ascendancy. But he was furious at 
this attempt to shake his authority, and his greatest wrath 
fell on Burnet, whom he denounced to the King as " the 
\ "chief incendiary" ; the visit to the Duke of Hamilton on 
i the night of the nth having obviously roused in his 
I mind the suspicion of Burnet's connection with the plot 
; Yet we have no ground for doubting Burnet s assertion 
that the visit was a coincidence, and his explanation of 
Lauderdale's suspicions seems quite reasonable. ** He had 
'* not looked for this \i.e. the parliamentary revolt], though 
" I had warned him of a great deal of it. But he re- 
" fleeting on that, and the credit I had got at Court, 
" and on the haste I made in my journey, and my coming 
" critically the night before the session opened, he laid all 
" this together and fancied I was sent upon design as the 
" agent of the party, and that the licensing of my book was 
" only a blind. He believed that Sir Robert Moray had 
"laid it, and the Earl of Shaftesbury had managed it... 
" and he assured the King that I had been the incendiary, 
" and that I had my uncle's temper in me, and that I must 
" be subdued, otherwise I would embroil all his affairs." 

Burnet felt the charge keenly, and tried to vindicate 
himself to Lauderdale in the following letter. 

1673] Letter to Lauderdale 119 

December 15/!^, 1673. 
May it please your Grace, 

The unusual coldness that appeared in your 
Looks and Words when I had the Honour to wait on your 
Grace last, made me not presume on a nearer Address, to 
ask what I now adventure, and in this way, which I hope 
shall offend least, which is to know what is my Crime that 
hath rendered me so guilty in your Esteem. To serve 
your Grace as it was left upon me by my old Father, so 
was it ever natural to me that as in the poor Sphere 
wherein I .have moved these Ten Years since I had the 
Honour first to know your Grace, it hath been my constant 
Care, so I made Account of your Grace's Favour as my 
Birthright ; and yet I never pretended to any other 
Advantage by it being rewarded by the Pleasure I find in 
it ; but when I find I am of a sudden, and I hope without 
any great Guilt, fallen not only from any Room I perhaps 
flattered myself I had in your Grace, but am represented 
in the blackest Characters, that is a new though a malicious 
Proof of the Instability of human Things ; yet though I 
am told I may give up your Goodness for me as irrecover- 
ably lost, I shall with the sinking Man catch hold of every 
Thing that may buoy me up, and do therefore beg once to 
be heard before I be for ever condemned. When I went 
last to London it was purely the Desire of the Duke and 
Dutchess of Hamilton, and my own Readiness to serve 
them in publishing the Memoirs, that made me go ; nor 
did I see or speak with any but them about my Journey, 
which I carried so secretly from all others, that only my 
being gone told I had set out While I was at London I 
corresponded with none but Duke Hamilton, and if his 
and his Dutchess their vindicating me to your Grace from 
being an evil Instrument or corresponding to your Grace's 
Prejudice, do not clear me, I am sure I need not expect it, 
though I can give many Evidences how that ever since 
I had the honour to know them, I used all my poor 
Endeavours to preserve in them all just and deep Impres- 
sions of your Friendship for them, and to allow no 
Resentments. My Stay at London was occasioned by 

I20 Defends his Conduct [ch. iv 

your Grace, who found not a Conveniency for some weeks 
of proposing the Business, I was sent for, to his Majesty, 
and though that Delay was heavy for me, yet I refused to 
accept of the offers of some great Persons who were willing 
to make my Address, and was resolved rather to lose the 
Journey than to have that Matter proposed by any but 
your Grace. All the while I was at London I studied on 
all occasions to do your Grace Right, which made me pass 
under the Character of your Agent, which my Lady Myner 
told me a few days before I left Whitehall and my Lord 
Haltoun the last night I was there; this seems an Evidence 
that I did and spake nothing to your Grace's Disadvantage. 
And having very clear Expressions of your Favour when 
you left Whitehall, I did not doubt to find them the same at 
the Abbay\ nor did I perceive any Change till being above 
Stairs, I was kept waiting above Three Quarters of an 
Hour in my Boots and no Access given though twice 
desired ; I was also told from many Hands that both your 
Grace and Lady Dutchess had given very diminishing 
characters of me, at which I had no reason to complain, for 
I desired to lessen my self in my Opinion more as any other 
can, and so must acknowledge the Justice of undervaluing 
me ; but finding myself out of the Posture I once stood in 
with you I resolved to get me quickly home and saw very 
few Persons. I well remember with whom I spoke. I am 
told my Crime is That I said to some your Grace durst not 
return to London, I know well from whom this comes and 
with whom these Discourses were, who if they had as faith- 
fully related all as they told the worst parts of the Discourse, 
I needed not apprehend any Censure. Some asked me 
How ye stood in England. I told them As well with the 
King and Duke as ever, but that many in the Court and 
House of Commons were ang^y with you who designed 
to drive you from his Majesty, but added My Fears that 
the bustling at this Time in England was an Evidence they 
were neither fixed in their Duty to King nor Duke, so that 
my representing you odious to them did your Grace as 
great a Right as I could do. My Error in this could not 
amount to more than Indiscretion, and so deserves a milder 
Censure than Traitor and Rogue. But if your Grace and 

* Holyrood Palace. 

i673] Breach with Lauderdale 121 

Lady Dutchess would remember I did to both give Hints 
of my Fears of Rubs ye might meet in Scotland, and told 
you of the Particulars, but saw myself laughed at as a Fool 
for my Advertisements and Advices ; but sure if you both 
reflected on all that ever I presumed to say to you you will 
not find that ever I abused you in a Tittle, either by giving 
false Characters of Persons or Things, or by offering to put 
any Trick upon you. It may be my too much Freedom 
hath if not offended yet been less acceptable ; but when 
you set all altogether you will, it may be, see reason to 
mitigate the Severity I have met with from you both 
against me. As I can attest God that I neither knew of 
any Design to oppose you in anything before I came to 
Scotland, so I had no Manner of Accession to it directly or 
indirectly, and shall never fail, be it accepted or not, to 
render in spite of Calumny and Jealousie all the dutiful 
Service in the Power of 

Your Grace s most humble, most faithful, 
and most obedient servant, 

Gilbert Burnet. 

Directed on the Back for his Grace the 
Duke of Lauderdale, 

his Majesty's High Commissioner for Scotland. 

The promise of service made in the last sentence was 
never fulfilled, for Lauderdale was henceforth to show him- 
self a vindictive enemy. A curious feature in the letter is 
the profound regret with which Burnet parts from his 
friend and patron. Nor was he singular in this respect. 
All Lauderdale's colleagues — Sir Robert Moray, Tweeddale, 
Kincardine — estimable, high-toned men who worked with 
him as long as they could, when obliged at length to 
separate, did so with deep regret and every mark of 
genuine affection for the mam Even the saintly Leighton, 
referring to his resignation, begs that there may be "no 
"abatement of your Grace's good opinion and favour, 
" though (I confess) alwaies undeserved in all other respects 
" unless great affection to your Grace and your service 

1 22 An Appeal to the King [ch. iv 

** may pretend to some small degree of acceptance instead 
" of merit. And this shall remain unalterable in mee 
*' while I live." Such expressions of affection and respect 
will sound strangely in the ears of those who regard 
Lauderdale as unutterably infamous, unless it be remembered 
that degeneracy is a gradual process. 

Burnet remained in Glasgow during the winter months 
occupied with the work of his professorship, which he never 
neglected however busy with other matters. He knew that 
he was a marked man, and that his safety lay in keeping quiet. 
Lauderdale was now ruling Scotland in the most arbitrary 
way. The events of the last session had convinced him 
that even the abject submission of the Scotch Parliament 
had its limits. With his usual decision he decided to do 
without it. He called Parliament together on March 3rd, 
1674, and at once dissolved it, never to call another during 
his administration. There were numerous protests, but it 
soon became dangerous to show disapproval of any of 
his acts. The advocates made an appeal to Parliament, 
and Lauderdale, with amazing audacity, banished nearly 
all the members of the Scottish Bar from Edinburgh. 
The Convention of Royal Burghs presented a petition 
praying for another Parliament, and the leading members 
were imprisoned. The country was seething with dis- 
content, but the King shewed his satisfaction in his 
masterful minister by creating him Earl of Guildford and 
giving him a pension of ;^3000 yearly. 

Ecclesiastical affairs were also in a most unsatisfactory 
condition. Leighton, referring to the bishops, writes on 
November 9th, 1673 • " I believe t'were little damage to 
" Church and State, possibly some advantage to both, if we 
** should all retire." We may safely conclude that before 
the close of that year the two friends had realised that their 
efforts to induce the Scotch people to accept Episcopacy 
were doomed to failure. With the aid of the Duke of 
Hamilton they had resolved to make a direct appeal to the 
King. There is a long paper dated from Glasgow, May 9th, 
1674, which was drawn up by Burnet and endorsed by 
Leighton. In it the condition of the Church is described, 
and the following proposals are made. **(i) That the 
** King should consider whether Episcopacy should be 

i674] Demand for a National Synod 123 

** maintained at the rate of the trouble it has cost and 
** whether it should not be given up. If it is to be main- 
" tained, religion and order should not be neglected, and 
'* offences against churchmen should be punished, (2) The 
" laws concerning the Church are too severe to be executed 
" and should be revised and be made practicable. (3) A 
** synod should be called to settle the Church." 

It is difficult to say on what grounds it was hoped that 
such a petition would be successful, for it is a grave indict- 
ment of Lauderdale's policy. Perhaps Burnet was under 
the delusion that he still stood high in the favour of the 
King. Whatever hopes they had were frustrated by an 
agitation of the Episcopal clergy, peculiarly vexing to 
Leighton and Burnet, who knew the King's antipathy to 
popular clamour, and how Lauderdale would misrepresent 
it. It is thus described by Burnet : 

** Some hot men that were not preferred as they 
" thought they deserved grew very mutinous, and com- 
" plained that things were let fall into much confusion ; and 
" they raised a grievous outcry for the want of a national 
'* synod to regulate our worship and government ; and so 
" moved in the diocesan synods that a petition should be 
*' offered to the privy council setting forth the necessity of 
*' having a national synod. I liked no part of this. I knew 
" the temper of our clergy too well to depend much on 
" them. Therefore I went out of the way on purpose 
" when our synod was to meet. Petitions were offered for 
" a national synod which was thought an innocent thing, 
" yet, it being done on purpose to heighten the fermentation, 
** great exceptions were taken to it... I was not at all con- 
** cerned in this, for I was ever of Nazianzen's opinion, who 
" never wished to see any more synods of the clergy, yet 
" the King was made believe I had laid the whole matter 
''even though I did not appear in any part of it.** 

Leighton, in his correspondence with Lauderdale, speaks 
of the petitions of the clergy in exactly the same way. He 
denies that the movement began in his diocesan synod or 
that its origin was due to his personal friends. He allows 
that the genius of the Scottish Church lies much towards 
synods and assemblies, but like Burnet expresses his dislike 
of them, and emphatically disclaims connection with the 

1 24 The Agitation Suppressed [ch. iv 

present violent agitation. It must be confessed, however, 
that neither Leighton in his letters nor Burnet in his 
History gfives a very straightforward account of the affair. 
They both disliked national synods, and only thought of 
such an expedient in the desperate condition of the 
Church. 1 1 is very probable that neither of them had any- 
thing to do with the petitions from the various presbyteries 
and synods, and that they disapproved of such agitation as 
likely to spoil their -petition to the King. But the fact 
remains that they did intend to propose to His Majesty that 
a national synod should be called, and Leighton had not 
the courage to own it to Lauderdale. The latter promptly 
terrorised the agitators. One bishop and four city ministers 
were deposed for daring to take part in such a movement. 
For Lauderdale^ (as he pointed out to Leighton) had no 
desire that the events of 1638 should be repeated. Again 
he blamed Burnet as the chief incendiary though he could 
not prove it, and Burnet began to feel so uncomfortable 
that he resolved to go to London. 

Another troublesome and ludicrous incident hastened 
his journey. On June 4th a crowd of women filled the 
Parliament Close in Edinburgh. They had assembled to 
present a petition to the Council praying (curiously 
enough) that the Presbyterian ministers might have such 
liberty as had been given them when the Duke of 
Lauderdale was in Scotland at the beginning of the year. 
The proceedings were as Wodrow confesses rather 
" tumultuary." The women caused Archbishop Sharp 
some alarm and called him Judas. Among the most 
prominent in the crowd were two of Burnet's cousins 
(daughters of Warriston), and also that staunch Presby- 
terian, his aged mother. Lady Crimond. The incident 
attracted much attention, though Burnet does not notice it 
in his History. The petition was declared criminal by the 
Council, and three of the ladies (Burnet's cousin among 
them) were imprisoned. He must have felt the whole 
affair exceedingly embarrassing considering his relations 
with Lauderdale. He felt it prudent to set out for London, 

^ One of his letters dealing with the national synod must be wrongly dated. 
The letter June i8th (sic) refers to the petition from the Presbytery of Had- 
dington which was not signed till June 25th. Hadd, Presb, Records, Cp. Laud, 
Pap. II. 52-4. 

i674] In disgrace at Court 125 

ostensibly to discharge his duties as chaplain. He did not 
leave too soon. The following letter from Lord Hal ton 
to Lauderdale shows that his movements had been closely 
watched. ** July 4th, 1674. Mr Gilbert Burnet took post 
" for London, and he will be landed before this time. 
" I could not know it sooner. He gives it out that his 
** errand is to wait as chaplain in July, being his month. 
" I hope you will luik to that, for he is the chief con- 
** trayver of this sinod and presbyterie business." 

On his arrival at Court Burnet found that Lauderdale 
had prepared for him a royal reception very different from 
that of the preceding year. " Charles H " (it has been 
well said — and in this case he does not belie the character) 
** avait Tesprit propre aux grandes choses et Tinclination 
" port^e k la bagatelle." He paid little attention to the 
many complaints of injustice which were coming from 
Scotland at this time but an offence against himself he 
did not so easily overlook as Burnet was now to ex- 
perience. " Lauderdale had told the King," he says, 
" that I had boasted to his wife of the freedom I had 
'* used with him upon his course of life. With this the 
" King was highly offended, or at least he made use of it to 
"justify many hard things that he said of me; and for 
** many years after he allowed himself a very free scope in 
** talking of me. I was certainly to blame for the freedom 
" I had used with the Duchess of Lauderdale; but I was 
" surprised by the question, and I could not frame myself 
'* to tell a lie, so I had no shift ready to satisfy her." 

The Duke of York, however, was still friendly. ** He 
** carried me," says Burnet, " to the King, who received 
"me coldly. Some days after... the Lord Chamberlain 
"told me he had orders to strike my name out of the 
" list of chaplains, and that the King forbid me the 
" Court, and expected I should go back to Scotland. The 
" duke seemed troubled at this and spoke to the King 
" about it, but he was positive. Yet he admitted me to say 
" to him what I had to offer in my own justification. I said 
" all I thought necessary and appealed to Duke Hamilton, 
" who did me justice in it. But the King said he was afraid 
" I had been too busy and wished me to go home to 
" Scotland and be more quiet. The duke upon this told 


126 /designs his Chair [ch. iv 

"me that if I went home without reconciling myself to 
'* Duke Lauderdale I would be certainly shut up in a close 
" prison, where I might perhaps lie too long." 

Burnet liking neither alternative decided not to return 
to Scotland. The following is the letter in which he 
resigns his professorship. 

London, September loth^ 1674. 

Rev. Sir, 

Upon many cogent reasons I have given you 
this trouble to tell you that I have resigned like as by these 
presents I do resign my place of Professor of Theologie in 
your University, and I pray God direct you and the 
Faculty to make a worthy choice. I shall as soon as may be 
remove my things out of the lodgings. I hope that you will 
communicate this to the Faculty, and that both you and they 
will be so just as to believe that wheresoever I am I shall 
ever retain all the affection, duty, and gratitude for the 
great obligations you have put on me that can be expected 

Reverend Sir, 
Your most oblidged and most humble servant, 

G. Burnet. 

So ended Burnet's Scotch career. He was only thirty- 
one, but already he had played an important part in public 
affairs. He and his colleagues had made a noble attempt 
to secure toleration in a bigoted age, and those who try to 
do justice to the elements of truth in contending parties 
undertake a hard task. Their efforts if not entirely suc- 
cessful, were not altogether made in vain. The period 
between 1668-74 has been aptly termed by Covenanting 
historians ** the Blink " — that is, the brief spell of sunshine 
between the storms. How much these men did to stop 
savage religious persecution and to moderate the truculent 
temper of Lauderdale may be seen if we compare the years 
of their influence with the dark period of Scottish history 
which followed immediately. 

1669-74] Results of his IVork 1 27 

In estimating the permanent value of their work we 
must be guided by the judgment of their countrymen. The 
trend of Scottish ecclesiastical history has been directly 
contrary to the Erastian principles of Leighton and Burnet, 
and the doctrine of passive obedience to which the latter 
clung so tenaciously never found any favour in Scotland. 
The history of the Established Church has been a slow 
but steady progress towards independence in orders, dis- 
cipline, and creed. As little sympathy has been shewn 
with Burnet s view that it is impossible for the Presbyterian 
system to maintain peace and order in the church. In the 
most decided manner the Scots have shewn their preference 
for Presbyterianism. Leighton was more accurate in his 
reading of the national character when he made the reluctant 
admission ** the genius of this church particularly lies much 
** towards synods and assemblies." Time has abundantly 
verified the statement. The Scottish Episcopal Church 
ignored the popular sentiment and has in consequence led 
a troubled and somewhat feeble existence since the Revolu- 
tion. It still ranks as one of the smaller religious com- 
munities in Scotland, and its share in the national life has 
been relatively unimportant — in no other country indeed 
has Episcopacy exercised so little influence over the re- 
ligious energies of the nation. It still claims to be the 
Church of Scotland, but beyond its own limits Scotsmen 
do not seriously consider the claim, because during the last 
two centuries by far the greatest part of the Christian work 
in Scotland has been done and the overwhelming majority 
of Christian lives have been lived outside the Pale of 

In another direction the national judgment has been 
more favourable. The Covenanters of the 17th century 
as we have seen were high-churchmen, firm believers in 
the Divine Right of Presbytery, ready to unchurch all who 
did not accept their favourite doctrine. Leighton and 
Burnet took the more moderate view that particular forms 
of government must not be reckoned among the essentials 
of the Christian Church. This view of theirs has found 
greater acceptance. There are few indeed of their country- 
men who would ever dream of unchurching their fellow 

1 28 Results of his Work [ch. iv 

Christians because of their preference for another ecclesi- 
astical organisation. Scotsmen as a general rule take but 
a languid interest in the Divine Right of Presbytery or 
in the kindred theory the Divine Right of Bishops. 
Rightly or wrongly they have tacitly agreed to leave dis- 
cussions on such questions to the smaller Scottish sects. 



1674— 1715. 




''[When] I resigned my Professorship," wrote Burnet, 
35 years later, ** [I] resolved to cast myself on the Pro- 
" vidence of God. * 

Humanly speaking, the outlook of the young Scotch- 
man, thus stranded in London at the age of thirty-one, 
must have seemed sufficiently gloomy. His professional 
prospects appeared blasted ; he had alienated all those 
from whom preferment could be expected. The patron- 
age of the unpopular Heir could not compensate for the 
estrangement of the King. The " Grand Vizier " of 
Scotland had become his implacable foe ; and yet the dis- 
covery of his clandestine marriage must inevitably embroil 
him with the Hamiltons, by whom Lauderdale was opposed. 
Nor could he longer trust to the friendship of Kincardine, 
now bound, by ties of interest, to Lauderdale's party. 
"I find*"^ (wrote Kincardine to Lauderdale, August 18, 
1674) "upon the back of your letter, which I had almost 
'missed taking notice of, that G. Burnet brags of his 
' interest in me, and of my friendship. I know no reason 
' why he should do so. I had not a letter from him, nor 
' he from me these 14 or 15 months. I did see him 

• at my chamber the Sunday at night before I left London 

* and he told me he had been with my wife before he came 

* away. I have a great kindness for many good things in 
' him, but I am as sensible as any other of the great want 
' he hath of prudence, and I attribute his late failings to 
'that rather than anything else, and yet I think this no 

• great compliment to him. I did write in my last letter 
' a touch [.^] concerning him, which is still my opinion, and 

9— a 

1 32 Lauderdale persecutes Burnet [ch. v 

'' which I think.. .will be more cross to his inclinations than 
'* punishments which may seem rougher. I have no con- 
" cern in it, for let him go where he will my sons shall go 
*' no more under his care." 

The young Divine was thus thrown completely on his 
own resources. His patrimony cannot have been large ; 
and the fortune of his unacknowledged wife, though con- 
siderable in Scottish eyes, was probably modest enough 
when reduced to English currency. But Burnet had tne 
dauntless spirit which so honourably distinguishes the 
Scot ; and one sphere, at least, seemed open to his efforts. 
"I preached" (he says) *' in many of the churches of 
'^ London, and was so well liked that... a church falling to 
"be given" by the votes of the parishioners "the electors 
"had a mind to choose me." His disgrace at Court how- 
ever complicated the issue; the voters " were not willing to 
" (^end the Court." Upon this the Duke of York again 
interposed for Burnet. He told Lauderdale (as Burnet 
puts it) "that he had a mind I should be settled in 
" London, and desired he would not oppose it Lauderdale 
"said, all this was a trick of the" discontented "party in 
"Scotland... that I might be a correspondent between the 
" factious in both kingdoms." The Duke of York, however, 
persisted ; he assumed a personal responsibility for Burnet's 
discretion; and the Minister had to yield. Nay, more, 
" seeing" (says Burnet) "what a root I had with the duke," 
Lauderdale offered Burnet his friendship if he would 
definitely break with Hamilton. This overture Burnet 
rejected: "I said I had promised the Duke" (of York) "to 
" meddle no more in Scotch affairs ; but I could not forsake 
" my friends." Lauderdale's resentment revived ; the King 
was induced to put pressure in the appropriate quarter; 
and Burnet lost the presentation. 

Nor was this all. Archbishop Sharp, then in London, 
maliciously accused Burnet of having traduced Lauderdale 
to the English opposition. The Duke of York gave Burnet 
a timely warning ; and when Secretary Coventry, on Novem- 
ber 27, summoned the divine, and intimated the royal 
pleasure that he should remove 20 miles from London, 
Burnet at once transmitted to Coventry's royal principal an 
absolute disclaimer of the charges formulated against him. 

1674] Bumefs exasperation J33 

It was corroborated by the noblemen implicated; but 
Lauderdale openly boasted that the quarrel should be 
" pushed " to the uttermost ; and that Burnet, innocent or 
guilty, should be forthwith driven from London. In vain 
did Burnet, on November 29, request a regular trial, or at 
least a formal hearing; and, in fine, in the last resort, he 
demanded a written order. As such a command could 
have no legal validity, this move embarrassed his opponents ; 
who (after another fruitless intervention on the part of the 
Heir Presumptive) fell back on the feeble expedient of 
forbidding Burnet the Court. 

Exasperated by this persecution, Burnet took the very 
step with which his accusers had charged him; and im- 
pulsively exclaimed, to some members of the English 
opposition, that his crime was "knowing too much." 
Therewith he proceeded to detail the sinister terms in 
which Lauderdale had alluded to the mercenaries of 
Scotland and Ireland. The charge was one of a singular 
gravity ; similar imputations, some thirty-four years earlier, 
had cost Strafford his head. 

Burnet moreover seems to have emphasized in rather 
questionable fashion the complete revers^ of his sentiments 
with regard to Lauderdale. It is maintained by Jacobite 
writers, on authority apparently good, that he attempted 
to suppress the eulogistic dedicatory pages prefixed to 
the Vindication. The London bookseller, Pitt, to whom 
the surplus copies had been sold refused to countenance 
the transaction ; and a contemporary, twenty years later, 
in a letter addressed to Pitt, supplies some vivid details : 
"I went" (he says) *'to your shop where I found lying 
'*on your compter several" copies of the Vindication, 
*' one of which I took up, and as I was reading in it, I 
" saw a tall clergyman (whose face was to me unknown) 
" coming out of the inward shop (you following him), 
**who by his looks and gestures seemed to be in a 
" very great passion ; and as he parted from you at your 
" outward shop door, with a very severe frown, said to you, 
*' in an angry loud Northern tone. Unless you do it, I will 
" never more have any dealings with you, and make you 
" repent it as long as you live." 

Burnet, however (so at least runs the tale), himself 

1 34 Sermons on Loyalty [ch. v 

bought back the volumes, and abstracted the belated eulogy. 
Certain it is that copies which contain the "Dedication" 
are now described as "rare." 

Meanwhile Burnet, despite his anger against Lauder- 
dale, was naturally concerned to evince, to the satisfaction 
of Court and King, his own unshaken loyalty to the 
" Powers that be." On December 6, 1674, he preached 
an eloquent sermon on the "Dutiful Subject" or "Sub- 
ejection for conscience sake asserted"; which was followed, 
on " King Charles' Day " succeeding, by another on the 
" Royal Martyr." These he soon after published, and we 
shall find them, in later years, more than once maliciously 
reprinted by the Jacobite press. This is not surprising; for 
their Royalism is decidedly effusive ; and true Religion is 
painted as the most effective bulwark of the Throne. Burnet 
indeed reprobates the profane theories of Hobbes ; the 
"pestiferous spawn" of the "infernal Leviathan" which 
undermine (while ostensibly supporting) the Governor's 
authority. His own hypothesis however treats the Magis- 
trate as a Divine Vicegerent, responsible only to the 
Supreme. Subjects who abandon the attitude of sub- 
mission (though on a "pretence of heroical excitations") are 
really moved by the " heats of a warm fancy " ; or else, like 
the impious Uzzah, they " distrust the providence of God." 
The horrors of civil war (so lately exemplified in England) 
are contrasted with the patience of Christ and His martyrs ; 
and Burnet insinuates, that if Hildebrand set the fashion of 
usurping on the civil authority, his example is imitated by 
many "who pretend a great heat against Rome.... But 
(adds Burnet) "blessed be God, our Church hates... this 
"doctrine... and hath established the rights. ..of princes 
" on ... unalterable foundations; enjoining an entire obe- 
" dience to all the lawful commands of authority, and 
*' an absolute submission to the supreme power God 
*' hath put in our Sovereign's hands." Yet is easy to 
see, what Burnet himself may have ignored ; that to him 
the Monarch as such is but the incarnate symbol of national 
unity and order. To the memory of Charles I meanwhile 
he is of course devoutly loyal ; and gives copious extracts 
from his letters in the Hamilton Memoirs y then as yet 
unpublished. Thence (says Burnet) we may draw some 

1674-S] Polemic against Rome 135 

hints of "that murdered Princes virtues"; to dilate on 
which were at once "endless" and "needless." 

These sermons failed to mollify either the Minister or 
the King ; but they cannot have failed to secure the appro- 
bation of the Duke of York. At odds with the Court, 
which had been forced to abandon the Papists, he now 
paid conspicuous attention to the disgraced divine. About 
Easter, 1675, Burnet was honoured with frequent audiences; 
he seems to have been initiated in some degree into the 
political confidence of the Heir Presumptive, and found 
him, as he tells us, *' in the best temper I had ever 
** known him in." The Duke was immersed in the study 
of devotional literature ; " and we had " (says Burnet) 
" much good discourse on that subject." But the preacher, 
to do him justice, did not flatter the prejudices of his 
patron. During the year 1674, Burnet had published 
one anti-Roman tract; and he now (in opposition to the 
Jesuit Ken) put forth a " Rational Method " of defending 
Anglican orthodoxy. This little pamphlet is an excellent 
example of Burnet's polemical gifts ; for in dealing with 
the Roman controversy, he is seen at his best. The 
questions at issue specially appeal to the historian ; since 
the premisses common to the parties are by both re- 
garded as falling within the province of history. So 
far, moreover, he cannot be said to have shared the 
almost superstitious horror with which the Protestant 
devotee regarded his Roman rival. Certain aspects 
of Romanism, in fact, had exerted no little attraction 
over his own youthful fervour. The ascetic impulse 
had passed ; but to the end of his life, devout and 
exemplary Romanists retained his esteem. Nor did he 
cease to extol, for the emulation of his own co-religionists 
the episcopal virtues of many Gallican bishops — the 
parochial reformation which (in France at least) dates from 
the Council of Trent But nis candour did not blind him 
to the other side of the dispute. Historical research had 
for Burnet finally exploded the fable of papal infallibility ; 
and the political claims of the hierarchy called the Erastian 
to arms. His theological and scientific views disallowed 
the miracle of the Host, which appeals from the senses, 
instead of through them. His spiritual instincts recoiled 

136 He is compelled to [ch. v 

from medisval ritualism — his common sense from mediaeval 
superstitions ; Jesuitical casuistry shocked his moral honesty; 
and cruel mediods of repression repelled one essentially 
humane. In this and other anti- Roman tracts, more- 
over, ready learning, apt illustration, and lucid arrange- 
ment are woven into an eloquence homely enough, but 
vivid, nervous, sincere. His epigrams are often happy. 
Roman ceremonialism he defines as a ''superannuated 
"Judaism"; and the ''grave and useful" miracles of the 
four Gospels are contrasted with the " ridiculous " marvels 
of Roman hagiography. The logical methods of the 
schoolmen — ^the " Janissaries of debate " — he dismisses as 
obsolete ; the modern apologist, transcending books and 
notions, must know "things" and "men." To Plato, geo- 
metry had seemed the porch of philosophy ; and in 
Burnet's eyes " mathematical arts and sciences " are " a fit 
"and almost necessary" prelude to theological study. 
They foster, he says, the power of critical discrimination 
and "practice a man into an exact consideration" of all that 
is proposed to him. 

But the friendship which had survived the strain of 
theological difference was now to succumb under stress of 
another kind. The English opposition, having shattered 
the ministerial "Cabal," had concentrated its attacks 
On the still impervious Lauderdale. Parliament met 
April 13, 1675. Within twenty-four hours the Commons 
appointed a Committee to formulate a demand for his 
dismissal ; and Burnet, whose animadversions on the 
Minister had long been public property, was summoned to 
substantiate his charges in the presence of this Com- 

Bitterly did he rue the loquacity which had thus 
ensnared him. If he publicly sustained his accusation he 
stood liable to the charge of malice ; to retract it was, in 
effect, to charge himself with untruth. Lamely enough 
he strove in the grasp of this dilemma. 

On April 21 the Committee reported that Burnet had 
submitted to examination as regards his banishment from 
Court He was also willing to retail the language held 
by Lauderdale in July— August, 1672 ; since the substance 
of those remarks had been reiterated to others. He 

i67s] incriminate Lauderdale 137 

specially instanced the Duchess of Hamilton ; who, so 
Mackenzie tells us, contradicted the assertion. As to later 
and more private converse he had however prevaricated ; 
"If I do know anything, I beg your pardon if I make no 
" answer\" 

On April 23, the House (having voted the address 
against Lauderdale) turned its attention to Burnet; and 
after a member had urged the duty of protecting him, if 
frank, from ministerial vengeance, he was again brought to 
the Bar. But Burnet persisted in his recalcitrancy. He 
reminded the House (so he assures us) that Lauderdale, 
under stress of passion, often spoke at random ; and 
that delation, under the circumstances, would seem a 
treacherous move. In fine however, Burnet, ere he with- 
drew, submitted to the sense of the House. 

An animated debate ensued. Some descanted on the 
probable importance of the evidence thus withheld; some 
dwelt on the efficacy of the Tower, as a solvent of scruples. 
Others cogently observed that Burnet, who admitted the 
fact of treasonable discourse, could hardly longer maintain 
that honour held his tongue. 

His further interrogation followed. The Speaker 
warned him that in the event of continued obduracy, he 
would be "proceeded against accordingly." Thereupon 
" between fear and persuasion " the witness finally yielded. 
" [Mr] Burnet then said. He shall always pay obedience to 
" the authority of this House, as becomes him." He 
acquitted Lauderdale of expressing a formed intention 
to invade England from the North ; but he gave, in full, 
particulars of the language employed by him. Some 
members were for cross-examination, with respect to the 
antecedents of the talk; but eventually the debate was 

It was now in Lauderdale's power to create a signal 
diversion. The Vindication, with its eulogistic introduc- 
tion, had appeared vi the interval between the incriminating 
conversations. The Secretary's presentation copy was pro- 
bably in the North; but London was ransacked for an 

^ So the Ham House MS. Greys Debates appends ''till the utmost 
'* extremity." Burnet declares \Hist. K\vf% ed. n. 74] he added a rider to the 
effect, that the words, whatever their nature, did not amount to treason. 

138 Burnet blames himself [ch.v 

unmutilated specimen ; and one at length came to 
light. A thousand copies (of the dedication?) were at 
once reprinted; and Lauderdale distributed them broad- 
cast to the members of both Houses. 

Burnet was thus most effectually " hoist with his own 
"petard." In vain would his friends have dismissed the 
dedication as a mere "compliment" paid to the Lord 
Commissioner of the day. The debate, again adjourned, 
was never more resumed. 

Burnet's action on this occasion certainly invites 
criticism ; but the censure it actually received is grossly 
exaggerated in its tenor. He had yielded to the resent- 
ment of the moment; he was charged with deliberate 
perfidy. In his most candid*, and therefore most con- 
vincing account of the affair, he frankly admits his error; 
while his History lays special stress on the inconsistency of 
his conduct. He who had so strongly argued against 
clergymen meddling in business, had now engaged himself 
deeply in secular concerns. " The truth is " (he decides) 
" I had been for about a year in a perpetual agitation, and 
" was not calm nor cool enough to reflect on my conduct as 
" I ought to have done. I had lost much of a spirit of 
" devotion and recollection ; and so it was no wonder if 
" I committed great errors." In the long run however the 
episode seemed a blessing in disguise. " Thank God " (he 
wrote, five-and-thirty years later) " it has proved a happy 
" deliverance from Courts and intrigues in which I was at 
" that time so far engaged." More especially it effected 
a complete breach between Burnet and the Papist Heir 
Presumptive; and he felt that but for this "the kindness 
" which was growing upon me to the Duke, might have 
" involved me into great difficulties, as it did expose me to 
** much censure." 

Meanwhile, if the affair had ruined him in some quarters, 
it recommended him in others. Kincardine (with whom, 
as with all others. Duchess Lauderdale had now quarrelled) 
resumed relations with the divine ; and thus forfeited for 
ever Lauderdale's patronage. The English opposition 
again could hardly abandon the man it had forced into so 

^ Autobiography [Supplement to Hist. O. 71, p. 484]. In the HisL Airy's ed. 
II. 75 [foL pag., p. 380] ne tries to gloss the matter over. 

i675] Preacher at the Rolls Chapel 139 

false a position. At the instance of Lord Holies (his old 
Paris friend, and now an opposition leader), Burnet 
waited on Sir Harbottle Grimston, Master of the Rolls, 
who forthwith appointed him preacher at the Rolls Chapel. 
The appointment seems to have been worth about £100 
a year; of which ;^io was actually received from the 
Master of the Rolls, the remainder being made up by the 
Masters in Chancery. It was not a "benefice," and it 
" naturally determined" whenever the Mastership fell vacant 
** The Court " (writes Burnet ingenuously) " thought me a 
^' man of that consequence that they sent first a Bishop, and 
" then a Secretary of State, to prevail with [Grimston] to 
*' dismiss me." Sir Harbottle, however, dwelt on his age ; 
and took his stand on his need of appropriate ministration 
to prepare him for another world. 

A fine old Puritan lawyer, Sir Harbottle had belonged 
to the constitutional opposition, tempus Charles I ; but 
thous^h "much troubled when preachers asserted a divine 
" right of regal government," had steadfastly opposed both 
the Covenant, and the Protector. His devout old wife 
(niece, says Burnet, " to the great Sir Francis Bacon ") was 
" high " in her " notions for the Church and Crown," but 
unostentatiously beneficent ; and their intimacy, says Burnet, 
added much to the happiness of his life in London. 

" By this means" (he proceeds) " I had a settlement in 
" London in which I continued ten year all to one term. 
" That which made this look to me like somewhat of a very 
" particular providence was that, as it came to me without 
" any thought or procurement of my own, so it happened 
" at the very time (I think in the very week) that my 
" marriage came to be known, in Scotland ; so it looked as 
" if God was watching over me for good, since I had the 
" face of a small subsistence to bring my wife to." 

What caused the discovery we have no means of 
learning. Lady Margaret was apparently at Hamilton ; 
whence she retired to Edinburgh, " condoling her own case, 
*'and [her husband's] present misfortune." 

The revelation caused a most unusual stir; and both 
parties (as Burnet himself puts it) were of course ** severely 
"censured." The scandal ordinarily attaching to a clan- 
destine union is naturally intensified when one of the 

I40 His marriage discovered [ch.v 

parties is in orders, and the other an elderly heiress; 
and Lady Margaret's Presbyterian intimates were peculiarly 
shocked by alliance with one that ''was prelatic." Many 
hinted that Burnet, in delating Lauderdale, had but 
executed the vens^eance of an unacknowledged wife on a 
former, and faithless, admirer. The Hamiltons were 
furious ; and though somewhat mollified by the fact that 
Burnet renounced all claims upon the reversion of Lady 
Margaret's fortune, some members of the family always 
described him in very indecent terms. 

Lady Margaret soon joined her husband ; but the 
marriage, however loyal the parties, seems to have been as 
little successful as the majority of ill-assorted unions. To 
the quondam great lady, who had been for so long a force 
in ecclesiastical politics, her London sphere will have 
seemed exceedingly contracted. Her husband s position 
as minister of an establishment more episcopal, and more 
ritualistic than the established Church of Scotland, must 
have galled her Presbyterian sympathies. And we suspect 
that he suffered, as time went on, from the innocent, but 
embarrassing, jealousy almost inevitable in the elderly bride 
of a husband socially popular. '' She had " (says Burnet) 
'' many rare qualities, but she had some bad ones ; she was 
" apt to mistake little things, and to fancy that her friends 
" neglected her; and upon these jealousies she was peevish 
" and bitter; but it was long before I observed these defects 
" in her." Moreover, her health soon failed. " She lived 
''with me" (says her husband) "13 years, but fell under 
" such a decay of memory and understanding that for some 
" years she knew nothing and nobody. In this " (he adds, 
with a quaint and characteristic mixture of chivalry and 
self-esteem) " I had a large occasion for patience, and for 
" a tender return of care to one that had laid so great an 
" obligation on me ; and I thank God I went through that 
" i» a very singular manner '' 

Meanwhile we find him settled, for a period of nearly 
ten years, in that great capital which was perhaps to 
become, for the remainder of his life, the real home of his 
affections, though not the main scene of his labour ; and in 
whose vast embrace he sleeps his last sleep. The London 
of which he now became a part was the London of Pepys, 

1675-85] His fame as preacher 141 

already too blind, alas, to continue his famous diary ; the 
London of Evelyn ; the London so rapidly rising from the 
ashes of the great fire under the magic hand of Wren. 
St Paul's indeed was not to be completed for another forty 
years, but the new city steeples sprang up on every side. 
The Chapel of the Rolls, though protected citywards by a 
garden or close, had itself suffered from the flames ; and had 
lost, during partial rebuilding, its mediaeval look. It had 
probably assumed very much the appearance which it was 
to retain till replaced, ten years ago, by the Record Office 
Museum. The fine monuments still preserved there were 
in situ under Burnet; and then (as was the case till within 
the last half century) each available foot of floorspace sup- 
ported the chests and presses which held the Chancery 
Rolls. The Master's Gallery however seems to have been 
a later addition. 

Burnet now resumed with renewed fervour his proper 
vocation. ** My spirits," he says [had been] " much 
'"dissipated upon my coming to England for a year or 
** two ; yet I thank God I recovered myself and returned 
^' to my profession, and the exercises and studies belonging 
^* to it." To the labours of his new post were soon added 
those attendant on the Thursday Lectureship at " St 
" Clement's Danes without Temple Bar,*' which still stands 
in solitary state, an island in the midst of the traffic, within 
easy reach of the Rolls ChapeP. No cure of souls attached 
to either office ; and Burnet was thus able to devote him- 
self, with concentrated zeal, to the work of the pulpit His 
reputation rapidly increased ; and he was in great request 
throughout the parishes of London, as a preacher of 
occasional sermons. Such success was the result of severe 
.and continuous study : " I applied myself to preach " (he 
tells us) " with great care. It was only in term time that 
" I was obliged to preach ; but I was employed in one place 
** or another in the vacation time. I hope I did some good 
^' there ; as appeared not only by the crowd at the Chapel of 
" the Rolls, but by many who seemed to have arrived 
=*' at a better sense of things and a. change of life by my 
" ministry there." 

^ H is History and the Life by his sons only mention '* St Clements.^ The'name 
^ the Rector \HisU O. T, Air/s ed. ii. 441, foL pag., I. 596] identifies the church. 

142 Character of his preaching [ch. v 

The pulpit, in fact, was Burnet's most appropriate 
sphere. An orator by temper and training, he found there 
ample scope for his religious . fervour and his childlike love 
of display ; his talent as an expositor, and his passion 
for giving advice. His natural readiness had been so 
assiduously improved that no one hesitated to pronounce 
him the extempore preacher of his day. Archbishop 
Tillotson noticed that the best sermon he ever heard him 
deliver was preached on the spur of the moment ; and it 
was notorious that the only discourse in which he was 
known to pause was also the only one which had been 
written out beforehand. He possessed all the external 
advantages which recommend a public speaker; a voice 
sonorous, if somewhat too powerful ; apt, of occasionally 
excessive gesture ; and a striking person. "He was," says 
Speaker Onslow, "in his exterior too the finest figure I 
" ever saw in a pulpit." All these external advantages how- 
ever were but the instruments of a passionate sincerity. 
" I never," wrote Speaker Onslow, in the middle of the 
eighteenth century, "heard a preacher equal to him. 
" There was an earnestness of heart, and look and voice, 
" that is scarcely to be conceived, as it is not the fashion of 
" the present times, and by the want of which, as much as 
"anydiing, religion is every day failing with us." His 
ascendancy is illustrated by an anecdote which Onslow 
preserves. Burnet (contrary to his custom) had " preached 
" out the hour-glass." He thereupon " held it aloft in his 
" hand, and then turned it for another hour ; upon which the 
" audience, a very large one for [the Rolls Chapel] set up 
" almost a shout for joy." 

The first few years of his new life passed, as Burnet 
tells us, in a " very easy manner." His pen, no less than his 
tongue, was occasionally employed on professional themes. 
" I wrote," he says, " many little books which were all so well 
" received that they sold well, and helped to support me ; 
" so that though I had no great plenty about me, yet 
" I was in no want of anything. I had great presents often 
"offered to me, but...I excused myself, in particular to the 
" sick, who sent much for me." 

Nor was the stimulus of congenial companship lacking. 
In the metropolis, the chief benefices were at this time held 

1675-85] Stillingfleet, Tillotson, Lloyd 143 

by men of the so-called "Rationalistic" or **Latitudinarian" 
school ; which might be termed the Broad Church of the 
seventeenth century. Lloyd — learned and exemplary, if not 
very sagacious — held, with other preferment, " the greatest 
" cure in England," the parish of St Martin's, Westminster. 
Tillotson, Dean of Canterbury, whose sedate eloquence 
made him a model to the preachers of the day, was a 
Canon of St Paul's; and his tranquil wisdom gave him 
singular weight among the clergy of the diocese. A man 
of far more powerful intellect, Edward Stillingfleet, became 
in 1677 Archdeacon of London. With these men Burnet, 
in some respects, had much affinity. An offshoot of the 
Cambridge Platonism which Burnet, ten years earlier, had 
appreciated, the school had outgrown for good or evil the 
metaphysical mysticism of its founders. Intellectual 
candour, ecclesiastical tolerance, lenient orthodoxy, and 
a love of general principles were its main characteristics. 
Its tepid religious morality knew nothing of the emotional 
ardour which transformed Burnet's common sense ; but 
like him it shrank, with impartial repugnance, from 
ceremonial superstition and fanatic zeal. Nor were other 
attractions wanting. Distinguished as preachers and apolo- 
gists the early Latitudinarians were also exemplary pastors. 
With Stillingfleet, Tillotson, and Lloyd, Burnet soon 
formed intimacies, which only death could break. Their 
influence is specially obvious in the literary domain. Their 
learning inspired Burnet to renewed intellectual activity; 
and he submitted, with touching docility, to their critical 
creed. They were, indeed, masters of the diction most 
in fashion under Charles II ; shorn of Elizabethan 
splendour and early Caroline elaboration, it aimed, above 
all things, at the lucid and the correct Burnet, in a 
curious passage on translation, no doubt embodies their 
teaching. "When a man," he says, ''writes his own 
'' thoughts the heat of his fancy and die quickness of his 
" mind carry him so much after the notions themselves, that 
'• for the most part he is too warm to judge of the aptness 
•*of words... and figures; so that he either neglects them 
'' too much or overdoes them. But when a man translates, 
'• he has none of these heats about then." But the pre- 
ference of the deliberate to the spontaneous was in 

144 His friendship with Littleton [ch.v 

Burnet's case utterly mistaken. The pedestrian propriety 
of Tillotson s moral essays vras little suited to Burnet's 
impetuous talents and his oratorical training; he always 
wrote best on the spur of the moment. If his censors 
chastened the exuberance of his earlier manner, they ended 
by impairing its vitality ; and in point of style the work on 
which he pinned his fame — the History of his own Time^ 
was, in the long run, revised into utter insipidity. 

But Burnet's associates were by no means mainly 
clerical. Chance had thrown him into the vortex of 
political society. He had settled in one of the three 
"Rows" which faced Lincoln's Inn Fields; the fourth 
side of the square being bounded by Lincoln's Inn Wall. 
In which '* Row " his house stood we cannot ascertain ; but 
it was "near the Plough Inn." The locality was then 
fashionable ; and he found he had important neighbours. 
" I happened " (he says) " looking for a house to fall 
^' accidentally on the next house to Sir Thomas Littleton, 
"knowing nothing concerning him. But I soon found 
** that he was one of the considerablest men in the nation. 
" He was at the head of the opposition that was made to 
■** the Court ; and living constantly in town he was exactly 
/" informed of everything that passed. He came to have an 
'" entire confidence in me, so that for six year together we 
'*' were seldom two days without spending some hours 
•" together. I was by his means let into all their secrets ; 

and indeed, without the assistance I had from him, 

I could never have seen so clearly into affairs as I did. 

We argued all the matters that he perceived were to be 
" moved in the House of Commons, till he thought he was 

a master of all that could be said on the subject" 
Burnet's own alienation from Court of course accelerated 
the intimacy ; and his utmost exclusive association with the 
Opposition, for a space of about four years, could not but 
have an influence on his political development. 

The " Country " party of this date was recruited from 
various sources. In its ranks the remains of Presbyterian 
constitutionalism coalesced on the one hand with a small 
phalanx of semi- Republicans, and, on the other, with the 
most moderate among the heirs of Royalist tradition. It 
ivas with these that Burnet himself sympathised. Of 



1676] Relations with the ''Country'' Party 145 

Shaftesbury, the most "advanced** of the leaders, he 
entertained a profound distrust. The crude Republicanism 
of Sydney, who returned some years later from exile, was 
yet more distasteful to Burnet, while Algernon's love of 
monologue and fondness for laying down the law disgusted 
the talkative Scot. But the heads of the more moderate 
section, Coventry, the able and the upright, and his 
brilliant nephew Lord Halifax (known to posterity as '*the 
** Trimmer"), proportionally attracted Burnet. His sub- 
sequent History, indeed, so far as Halifax is concerned, is 
coloured by the circumstances of an intervening alienation. 
At this time however Burnet's admiration was only qualified 
by doubts as to the religious orthodoxy of his accomplished 

But attached as Burnet was to the heads of the 
moderate opposition, he by no means subscribed to its 
entire political creed. Recent debates had practically com- 
mitted the '* Country" party to the dogma that extreme 
oppression may be opposed by physical force. From this 
doctrine, during many a subsequent year, Burnet osten- 
tatiously dissented. He was never indeed, in the strictest 
sense of the word, a **Jure Divino" man. The mystic 
sanctity ascribed to monarchical government in general, or 
to given dytuisties in particular, repelled his robust com- 
mon sense ; but the Royalist fervour of his youth was as 
yet by no means exhausted. Moreover to the Scotchman, 
steeped in the distracted annals of his own faction-ridden 
land, the legalization of resistance to the supreme authority 
seemed a mere premium on revolt ; and a more than Polish 
anarchy the inevitable consequence. 

Nor did Burnet, at this time, share the sympathies of 
the " Latitudinarians '' and the moderate Parliamentary 
opposition for the Presbyterian dissidents. Extruded from 
the National Church by the Act of 1662 their position had 
been altered for the worse by the recent "Test Act" of 
1673. This was of course primarily directed against the 
Papists ; but its terms were such as to exclude all 
strict Dissenters, Protestant as well as Papist, from 
secular office. A project for the renewed " Comprehension" 
of the Presbyterian party within the limits of the State 
Church, had been mooted ; and during the winter of 

B. 10 

146 Attacks the Presbyterians [ch. v 

1674-5, Tillotson, Stillingfleet, and Halifax had declared in 
its favour. Towards the close of the year 1675 their efforts 
were seconded in a curious tract, entitled " The Naked 
"Truth." Ascribed to **An humble Moderator," it was 
really written by Bishop Croft, of Hereford ; and it 
occasioned the greateist excitement. 

Though devoid of literary grace, the religious attitude 
of this piece is quite reminiscent of Leigh ton. It advocates 
moreover certain concessions, which, later on, were pressed 
by Burnet himself. None the less, at this moment, it incurred 
his strong reprobation. He was in the first flush of his 
enthusiasm for the Church of his adoption. The width of 
its formularies — its liturgical apparatus — its at this time 
hearty Erastianism, appealed, as the contemporary Church 
of Scotland could never have appealed, to his strongest 
instincts. Abuses, which disfigured its practical working, 
and against which he was to fulminate later on, had not, so 
far, been pressed on his notice. And, in the last place, the 
fate of the Scotch "Accommodation" proposals cannot at 
this time have disposed him to conciliate Presbyterians. 

His Modest Survey... of Naked Truth is dated 
May 23, 1676, and was licensed, as anonymous, three days 
later. It charges the Moderator with presumption, and 
with exciting sectarian discontent The relaxation of 
doctrinal subscription is strongly deprecated ; the Articles 
are described as almost excessively liberal ; nor, on the 
Free-will controversy could anything be more discreet, 
since both Calvinists and Arminians can sign with a clear 
conscience. Purely scriptural texts would encourage the 
Socinians, who swallow scriptural formulas. Ceremonies 
should not be rashly modified, since the charge of possible 
abuse can be brought against every rite ; and proposals for 
change must emanate from the Dissenters themselves. Con- 
sideration may be due to consciences really tender ; but the 
Church owes nothing to those ** insolent sectaries," who have 
'* rendered themselves obnoxious both in Church and State." 
He (Burnet) contravenes the Moderator's contention that 
the early Church, though appointing superintendent over- 
seers, did not recognize distinct orders. This argument 
^he says) justifies the Presbyterian position. Distinction of 
tunction implies difference of order; and the spiritual 

1676] The Roman Controversy 147 

authority of the existing Episcopate is derived either from 
the Apostles, or, by delegation, from the body of the 
Church. The latter claim no one, as he thinks, will 
support. The Episcopal is the original order, from which 
the others derive. The Fathers clearly differentiate the 
apostolically-sanctioned orders from later accretions. The 
Foreign Presbyterians, deprived by untoward circumstances 
of Episcopal sanction, he dares not ** unchurch." But 
English Presbyterians experience no such disability ; and 
their ministers should not be received into the ranks of the 
established hierarchy, without a profession of penitence. 
Such are the arguments of this strongly ** Anglican " tract. 

The essential bond meanwhile between Burnet and the 
Parliamentary opposition was a common dread of Popery. 
For on April 2, 1676, the Duke of York, by finally disso- 
ciating himself from Protestant worship, set a defiant seal 
on his secession from the national faith ; thus exciting the 
gloomiest anticipations in the minds of his future subjects. 
These ** apprehensions" (to use Burnet's language) "obliged 
"us to study these controversies" with increased "appli- 
" cation." 

Burnet himself was early called into the fray. For on 
April 3, 1676 (at the instance of a Protestant lady who had 
discovered her husband to be a papist), took place the 
celebrated conference between Burnet and Stillingfleet on 
the one hand, and certain priests on the other. It was 
remarkable for the arrogance with which an ill-fated Papist 
layman, Coleman, the Duchess of York's secretary, took 
the words out of the mouths of his own representatives. 
The report, by Burnet (with learned appendices by 
Stillingfleet), was soon after published ; and " set me " 
(says Burnet) "as in the front of those who opposed 
" Popery." For this lady moreover Burnet subsequently 
wrote his tract on the validity of Anglican orders, as seen 
from the Roman standpoint. It is a learned, able, and to 
the lay mind singular tedious production. In it he alludes 
to his own orders as derived, at one remove, from the 
Anglican ; assigns to King and Parliament the supreme 
legislative function ; and asserts that the civil power 
(though unable to annihilate orders) can prohibit their 
exercise by an individual within its dominions. 


148 Connection with Chiswell [ch. v 

This work also marks the beginning of a connection 
which was to last nearly thirty years. On his first arrival 
in England, Burnet's publishers had been Richard Royston 
(" bookseller to the King"), the great Royalist printer ; and 

^ Moses Pitt, famed for his English Atlas and catalogues 
of foreign books. The quarrel over the dedication to 
Lauderdale did not sever his relations with Pitt, who 
published in 1676 the Conference and the Survey of 
Naked Truth. Henceforward however Burnet trans- 

N^ferred his patronage to the press of Richard Chiswell 
(**at the Rose and Crown in St Paul's Churchyard") who 
had married Royston's daughter. From 1668 onwards he 
had been "rising... to the top of his profession"; and he 
was to become, ere his relations with Burnet ceased, the 

\^'' first publisher and bookseller in the United Kingdom " — 
'* the metropolitan bookseller of England if not of all the 
''world. His name at the bottom of a title-page,'' adds 
Dunton, ''does sufficiently recommend a book. He has 
'* not been known either to print a bad book, or on bad 

The year 1677, meanwhile, gave birth to another work, 
embodying a different aspect of Burnet's many-sided 
genius. His friend, the saintly Professor Scougal, son of 
the Bishop of Aberdeen, and, like Burnet, a disciple of 
Leighton, passed through London in the long vacation of 
1676; and there showed Burnet the MS. of his now famous 
devotional tract, The Life of God in the Soul of Man. 
Struck by its beauty, Burnet extorted from the author 
a consent to its anonymous publication, and himself saw 
it through the press. He further prefixed a brief but 
interesting introduction, directed against the minor im- 
moralities of the day ; and appended an Essay on the 
Beginnings and Advances of a Spiritual Life, i.e. the 
phenomena of so called religious "conversion." 

This anonymous tract " written at the desire " of one 
"M.L.U.R." — ^who is elsewhere described as '*a great 
" master of wit and language " — is usually ascribed to 
Burnet's own pen. "That there is a new Birth, and a 
" divine inward operation of the spirit of God, which does 
" constantly exert itself in the souls of the adopted sons of 
"God, but chiefly in their regeneration, is" (he says) "a 

1676-7] Treatise on ''Conversion'' 149 

" truth so sacred and certain, that none who have any 
" acquaintance with the inward ways of God can so much 
" as question it." But since '* the wild notions and worse 
" practices of some high pretenders " have " brought this 
"divine truth into some... disrepute with those who know 
" nothing of it," he must attempt to elucidate its nature. He 
will not enter into ''a strict philosophical discussion of this 
"spiritual state." It is ** better felt than defined." For 
though "a blind man may be taught... to make a very exact 
"discourse of... the nature of light and vision... yet every 
" plain, simple man with two eyes hath a truer " (if less philo- 
sophical) " notion of them." But he maintains that (since 
the Fall) only a special energy of the Divine can restore the 
idea of God to predominance in the individual mind. This 
energy takes the form of an emotional impulse, of which 
the proximate cause seems often fortuitous, and which is 
usually, though not always, sudden. Horror of sin, and 
fear of divine judgments are its first signs. Many persons 
having laid down rules to God, raise scruples upon the 
degrees of this horror and conviction " ; but the only true 
criterion of regeneration is a real change of life. For often 
" the renewed man will even very early come to be above 
" those terrors of servile fear." Burnet discriminates between 
true religious fervour, and the nervous, or even sensual, 
excitement with which it is often attended and confused. 
He descants, moreover, on the danger of a man's tying 
himself to devotional forms ; since " there is a progress in 
" the spiritual as well as in the natural life." He fulminates 
against those who suppose that the leadings of the divine 
spirit supersede Reason ; if by Reason we mean, not the 
formal logic of the schools, but ** the clear conviction of our 
"faculties." On the love of God and of man he dwells 
with the ardour of a Leighton ; repelling the " Moham- 
'* medan notion," which places fruition in external felicity 
rather than in a mystic union with the divine. A few 
practical remarks on constitutional weaknesses led to the 
avowal, that the writer's besetting temptation is " blasphe- 
" mous thoughts of God." These he has known "a torment 
"perhaps equal to a rack." 

A year after the appearance of these tracts, Henry 
Scougsd died. From a common friend, Burnet sought 

150 Publication of the Hamilton Memoirs [ch.v 

materials for a memoir ; ingenuously adding that as the 
shock must necessarily kill the Professor's aged father, 
matter for the Bishop's biography should be also supplied, 
and the two Lives might appropriately appear bound in a 
single volume. The mend seems to have communicated 
with the Bishop. But he, in whom the memory of Burnet's 
early indiscretion evidently still ranked, promptly vetoed 
the project When consulted later, on his deathbed, with 
respect to a posthumous biography, he made only one 
stipulation. The biographer, at any rate, should not be 
Burnet " Whether he loves or hates," said the old prelate, 
"he is immoderate.... If he should intend to commend me, 
** his encomium would be worse than a satire." 

Meanwhile Burnet was projecting more important 
efforts. The appearance of the Hamilton Memoirs 
(licensed in 1673) ^^^ been unaccountably postponed. 
Late in 1677, however, with its original dedication to the 
King, the work at length saw the light; forming, as 
Mr Clarke has told us, Volume 1 1 of a History of the Church 
of Scotland, with Spottiswoode's History as Volume I. Like 
most works which tread **per ignes suppositos cineri doloso" 
it created a great stir ; and it was vehemendy applauded in 
the ranks of the opposition. Sir William Jones, the 
Attorney General, a friend of the '* Country " party, pro- 
nounced Burnet " cut out " for the writing of history ; and 
wished him to undertake a general History of England. 
But as it happened Sanders' virulent diatribe against 
" The English Schism " had recently appeared in a new 
French translation. The excitement it occasioned in con- 
tinental circles seemed to demand a counterblast, especially 
in view of the impending Papist Succession. Burnet's anti- 
papal pamphlets of course marked him out "All my friends " 
(he says) **conclude[d] I was the fittest man to answer 
"it... So now all my thoughts were turned that way." He 
started collecting materials for a History of the Refonna- 
tion of the Church of England \ and the first volume, 
devoted to the Reign of Henry VHI, cost him more than 
two years' labour. 

For such a work Burnet possessed considerable quali- 
fications ; a warm and intelligent interest in the questions at 
issue ; the unusual width of outlook which makes for sanity 

1677-8] The History of the Reformation 151 

of judgment ; and the broad practical acquaintance with 
books and men which is the best equipment for the 
historian. His masculine common sense perceived that 
a movement may be in substance beneficial, which it would 
nevertheless be impossible to justify in every detail. His 
Erastianism enabled him to sympathise with the peculiar 
features of the English revolt from Rome. Yet, as a Scotch- 
man, he could regard the struggle with a ''detachment*' 
which he sometimes lacks, where personal prepossession is 
more acute. 

Nor does he, in the actual treatment, fall below his 
theme. Burnet's Reformation forms an epoch in our 
historical literature. Behind him lie Raleigh and Bacon, 
Herbert and Camden ; he is the first of our historians who 
is still regarded as readable. Religious enthusiam, latent 
but passionate, fuses the whole work into an almost epic 
unity, wherein Burnet's other histories appear singularly 
deficient. He is not a very vivid narrator ; but here 
incident is but the link between those controversial 
episodes, in the treatment of which he excels. To the 
methods of his continental predecessors he devoted a 
careful study ; reading, and rereading, four or five times, 
the monumental masterpiece of Father Paul. Free from 
that idolatry of the classics, which was the bane of early 
historians, his conception of history appears essentially 
modern. Ranke has laid stress on his passion for primi- 
tive sources of information. Originally excited by the 
conversation of his father, it had been whetted by patristic 
studies, and the Hamilton investigation, and was now 
further stimulated by the example of Stillingfleet and 
Lloyd. His indefatigable energy ransacked available 
sources; generous friends, such as Boyle, supplied funds 
for transcription ; and the result is a documentary apparatus, 
which inspires the specialist with respect. 

But the medal has its reverse. The defects of the 
history are as conspicuous as its merits. Burnet's pre- 
liminary knowledge of the subject was by no means 
thorough ; and since, in order to retort promptly upon 
Sanders, he was really working against time, he lacked 
adequate leisure to riepair his own deficiences. He was 
still hampered by the enmity of Lauderdale, who supposed 

1 52 The History of the Reformation [ch. v 

him to be the connecting link between Scotch and English 
factions; and who succeeded in exciting the suspicions of 
the antiquary Cotton \ whose series of Reformation manu- 
scripts was at the time unrivalled. Burnet, at this date, 
obtained but a brief and more or less surreptitious inspec- 
tion of the Cotton treasures ; during which he and his 
Scotch amanuensis* worked at breakneck speed. They 
were both new to the orthography of the records ; and the 
invaluable assistance of Petyt the archivist was not always 
available. Nor was Burnet's impetuous genius suited to 
the task of transcription. The minute vigilance required 
fretted his active spirit ; a rapid imagination often jumped 
at a conclusion ; and he seems to have specially chafed 
against the demands of chronological precision. His hand- 
writing, which retained some Scotch peculiarities, seems to 
have puzzled his printers ; and he was not sufficiently 
scrupulous in revising his proofs. In fine, his learned 
editor, Pocock, who devoted to the correction of his blunders 
almost as many years as Burnet occupied in making them, 
claims to have rectified in the earlier editions ''about ten 
'' thousand downright mistakes.'' Most of these, of course, 
are trivial inaccuracies which do not affect the validity of 
Burnet's conclusions. But some — such as his famous per- 
version of Luther's eucharistic views — are as serious as 
they are gross. 

H is editor, however, emphatically repudiates the charge 
of deliberate falsification, which was advanced by the malice 
of adversaries, personal, political, or clerical. Into the con- 
troversies thus provoked we do not propose to enter. His 
opponents were remorseless ; and Burnet, though desirous 
of advice from responsible quarters, showed himself, where 
he suspected a hostile animus, ludicrously sensitive. And 
the acrimonious application of the personal argument, 

^ With this c£ Dugdale^s letter to Cotton, December 20, 1677. [Brit. Mus., 
Sloan MSS. 4162 f. 224; copy.] He mentions that Burnet, as a Scotchman, 
cannot be credited with any special knowledge of English affairs ; and says 
that the fact of his blaming the Scottish Bishops, in the Hamilton Memoirs^ 
for the origin of the rebellion, gives no great idea of his episcopal orthodoxy. 
Dugdale seems to have been incited by several English Divines. See also 
Pocock^s edition Hist. Reform, vu. 1-3. TTie suggestion in Burnet's History that 
Lauderdale represented Burnet to Cotton as an ''enemy to the prerogative '^ 
seems rather an anachronism. \Hist, Airy's ed. ll. 107, fol. jpae., I. 396.J 

' Adam Angus. See Cole's note to Hist, Air/s ed. ll. 104 [foL pag., i. 429]. 

1677-8] The Popish Plot 153 

characteristic of 1 7th century polemics, was conspicuous in 
the wordy wars with Lowth, Parker, Le Grand, Varillas, 
Hickes, Anthony k Wood, Henry Wharton, etc., etc, etc. 

The preparation and revision of his initial volume 
absorbed the end of 1677 and the first part of the year 
1678. In the autumn, however, a startling incident drew 
Burnet once more into the vortex of political passion. 
Popery, here also, was the topic. 

Some years before, at Sir Robert Moray's, Burnet had 
come across a crazy parson called Tonge, who posed as an 
"[al]chemist" and "projector." On September 26, 1678, 
this man presented himself to Burnet, with extravagant 
stories of a Popish Plot, directed against the life of the 
King in the interests of his brother's succession. Burnet, 
naturally alarmed, but unable to approach the Court, applied 
to Lloyd; and induced him to report the matter at the 
Secretary's office. Lloyd found that Tonge was already in 
touch with the officials ; but that his tale was little regarded. 
Burnet then spoke to Littleton, and found him equally 
callous. Halifax however shewed his usual acumen. The 
nerves of the body national, he noted, were already at ten- 
sion, on the score of the duke's religion; such stories, once 
published, must, he prophesied, excite uncontrollable fury. 

His forecast was terribly fulfilled. Two days later, 
Oates, the associate of Tonge, began his perjured denun- 
ciations. The Coleman of the Burnet Conference was his 
first victim, and among the unhappy man's papers lay a 
compromising correspondence with France, undertaken in 
the Papist interest. The matter became public ; and frantic 
excitement ensued. 

Within forty-eight hours, Tonge sent for Burnet, to 
Whitehall, where the two informers were established. 
Their conduct disgusted him. Tonge's weak brain seemed 
turned by his sudden importance ; and Burnet recoiled with 
horror from his loathsome comrade, who boasted he had 
played the Papist only that he might act the spy. Oates 
paid Burnet the "compliment" of including both him and 
his ally Stillingfleet among those marked for vengeance in 
the list of the Papist committee. But Burnet, with some 
humour, describes an honour as "cheap" which was shared 
with such men as Tonge. 

1 54 Burnefs original impressions [ch. v 

A few days later, while walking, Burnet met Sir 
Edmund Berry Godfrey, an active magistrate, who had 
taken Oates* depositions. He seemed depressed, and avowed 
a fear of assassination. Soon after, he disappeared; and as 
the result of a five days' search his corpse was discovered in 
a ditch '* about a mile out of town, near St Pancras Church." 
To the populace — and indeed to many others — murder by 
the papists seemed the only possible solution. The 
fabrications of Oates were unquestioningly swallowed ; sub- 
ordinate villains, lured by the prospect of reward, soon 
appeared to corroborate his legends ; and " the Dreyfus 
''scandal of English History" was now in full career. 

What were Burnet's own sentiments? Here we are 
somewhat at a loss. His original memoirs are at this point 
defective; and the subsequent History, on such matters, is 
sometimes anachronistic. This insinuates that Burnet rose 
superior to the current, which swept the credulous Lloyd 
completely off his feet. The positive traces of dangerous 
Popish intrigue (as revealed in the Coleman corre- 
spondence) justified, Burnet maintains, measures of 
legislative repression; but he declares that he deprecated 
criminal proceedings upon evidence so discreditable as that 
of Oates. Hollis and Halifax, he says, expressed their 
concurrence in these sentiments; but Shaftesbury treated 
as ** public enemies" all who "undermined the credit of the 
** witnesses." These threats notwithstanding, Burnet frankly 
warned the opposition and the authorities against a dis- 
reputable Scot, an ** agent provocateur" of Lauderdale's, 
who appeared among the plot witnesses. His information 
became public; and he incurred on all sides great odium. 
Lauderdale sneered at his tenderness for would-be re- 
gicides; the ** Country" extremists, aware of the King's 
disbelief in the plot, accused Burnet of an attempt to curry 
favour. **And so inconstant a thing is popularity" (adds 
Burnet) '*that I was then most bitterly railed at" by many 
former friends. " I was advised by some not to stir abroad 
" for fear of public affronts. But these things did not 
** daunt me." 

Yet though Burnet, on this occasion, had the courage 
of his conviction, it is certainly not true that the evidence 
left him cold. During the crisis he published anonymously 

1678] Overtures from the Court 155 

four ant i- Roman pamphlets, of which only one is purely 
theological. In the others he argues that the deposition 
and outlawry of heretic kings, by fiat of the Roman See, is 
an integral part of the Roman system ; reminds his readers 
of the Bartholomew massacre; and maintains that the 
doctrine of reservation discounts the dying asseverations 
of the "Plot" victims. The pieces are avowedly topical; 
in none is the slightest doubt cast on the validity of the 
evidence for the Crown; and their publication, while the 
trials were still in progress, had an obviously inflammatory 
tendency. Burnet, in fact, in his later works, credits him- 
self with too much contemporaneous perspicacity. Like 
the rest of his countrymen he certainly lost his head. But 
he recovered his balance with commendable rapidity; and, 
from the first, had the candour to admit that denunciation 
and guilt were not convertible terms. 

Meanwhile his intervention on behalf of an accused man 
had made its impression at Court. It seems to have con- 
vinced the King that Burnet was either more moderate, 
more simple, or more cunning than his "Country" associates ; 
and he conceived the idea of employing him as a tool. 
About the middle of November, 1678, the Duke of 
Hamilton's brother brought overtures to the divine. Burnet 
was bidden to a secret audience ; hints were dropped as to 
the service he could render. The See of Chichester more- 
over, was described as available for a man that should 
"come entirely" into the Royal interest *'I said," pro- 
ceeds Burnet, "I understood not the importance of those 
** words. I knew what the oaths were which I was to take; 
" these I should observe faithfully, but for other promises I 
" would make none." As to services he was equally 
cautious. " I asked if he fancied I would be a spy or 
** betray anybody. ... But he undertook... that the King 
"should... in all things leave me to my liberty." 

Burnet's vanity, and perchance something of a nobler 
ambition, took the bait offered in vain to his cupidity. The 
proposal, no doubt, flattered his self-esteem. To be 
solicited by a king is no common event ; and the con- 
descension is the more alluring to a recipient who has 
known disgrace. The confidant moreover of Court and 
Country, what might he not effect ? Prospects so dazzling 

156 Interviews with the King [ch.v 

blinded him to the essential facts of the situation. He was 
intimate with the opposition. Intercourse with the Court, 
to be honest, must be open. 

The first interview was delayed ; and ere it took place 
Burnet succumbed to the inevitable pitfalls of such duplicity. 
" A bill," he says, " passed in both Houses for raising all the 
"militia....! found some of them hoped, when that Bill 
** passed into a law, they would be more masters. I gave 
" the King notice... [On November 30] he rejected the Bill... 
" and thanked me for the advice." We have here a breach 
of confidence which, under the circumstances of the case, 
falls little short of treacher}\ 

The audience duly took place ; and was the prelude to 
several others. These stolen interviews occurred, by 
appointment, at Whitehall, in no very reputable locality ; 
the "backstairs" apartments of the notorious Chiffinch. 
The King came alone, and " kept" (says Burnet) " the time 
" he assigned me to a minute." He " talked much and 
" very freely.... We agreed," says Burnet, "in one thing that 
" the greatest part of the evidence was a contrivance." The 
King evinced fears of a rebellion : " I assured him," says 
Burnet, " I saw no appearances of it." Burnet however 
warned his Sovereign of rumours which imported his 
Majesty's desire to legitimate the Duke of Monmouth. 
The King sharply retorted, that much as he loved his son, 
he had rather see him hanged ; but seemed not ill-pleased 
with such reports, as calculated to postpone revolt. He 
declined to admit the possibility of his brother's recon- 
version ; agreed with Burnet in reprobating attacks on the 
Queen ; and affected some sense of his own immoralities, 
a topic on which Burnet waxed bold. Burnet also en- 
deavoured to press home the necessity for ministerial 
changes; and foreshadowed a plot against the unpopular 
chief minister Danby, of which Burnet knew no details. 

Ere long, as was natural, Burnet incurred the penalties 
of his ambiguous intercourse. It had become known, or 
at least suspected, that he had revealed to the King* in- 

^ Wliether this was the real motive underlying the Militia Bill, mentioned 
above; or whether it was the fact that Coleman, when examined before the 
Committee of the House of Commons, had implicated the Duke of York in his 
own negociattons with France, cannot be certainly known. 

1678-9] Success of the History 157 

formation, confided by Grimston. He thus lost Grimston's 
respect and confidence ; and his general reputation received 
a permanent shock. 

Moreover (as Burnet says) the King " thought I was 
" reserved to him, because I would tell him no particular 
"stories nor name persons.*' About the beginning of 
January, therefore, ** I " proceeds Burnet " told him, since 
" he had that opinion of me I saw I could do him no 
" service, and would trouble him no more ; but he should 
"certainly hear from me if I [learnt] anything... of con- 
" sequence to his person or government." 

The attack on Lord Danby, foretold by Burnet, was 
not long delayed. By the end of April he was in the 
Tower, on a charge of high treason ; and a general elec- 
tion — the first for eighteen years — had given the "Country" 
party an overwhelming majority. The Privy Council was 
recast in its favour ; and the opposition, to use a modern 
term, had "come into power." 

About a month later — May 23, 1679 — th^ Htstoty [of 
Henry VHTs] Reformation passed the licenser. It seems 
to have been rushed through the press ; and appeared, 
during Trinity term, in one volume folio. 

Few books have ever enjoyed a more complete "succ^s 
" d'occasion." The Protestant fervour of the country had 
reached its height ; the Protestant party was triumphant. 
The merits of the work lay obvious ; its errors awaited the 
research of the contemporary Dry-as-dust. Its appearance 
was therefore followed by a burst of applause ; and every 
facility was lavished for the preparation of a second volume. 
A Royal Warrant, dated July 11, 1679, gave renewed 
access to the Paper Office; the MSS. of Corpus Christi 
College, Cambridge, became instandy available; and Burnet 
spent part of the summer with the Master of St John's. 
Cotton threw open his library; the Chancellor and Lord 
Russell (leader of the House of Commons) sent liberal 
funds for research ; while the wealthy Halifax, ignorant of 
those arrangements, offered Burnet a munificent pension, 
which Burnet gratefully declined. 

Success meanwhile was acting as a solvent on the 
triumphant majority. The Popish heir, at the Kings 
request, had retired to a continental retreat ; but opinions 

158 Relations with Halifax [ch. v 

differed as to the future. Lord Shaftesbury — ^with, as was 
surmised, an eye on the Duke of Monmouth — pressed for 
the ** Exclusion " of the dreaded heir. A more moderate 

{)arty, headed by Lord Halifax, preferred to "limit" by 
egislation the powers of a Popish King. 

With the latter party Burnet at first appears to have 
sided. He was no dynastic devotee ; and he does not 
seem to have questioned the competency of the Legislature 
to exclude. But influenced by Halifax (then at the zenith 
of his powers), he believed that an " exclusion " must entail 
civil war. He therefore employed all his credit with 
** Country" politicians in favour of "Limitation." 

Backed by the King, the Moderates at first triumphed. 
A sudden illness however brought the King to death's 
door ; and the Moderates, fearing a "coup d'etat " in favour 
of Monmouth, recalled the Heir Presumptive. He speedily 
regained an ascendency in the councils of the Court ; and, 
regarding with impartial abhorrence the two popular parties, 
he soon reduced the "Country" ministers to a common 
impotence. "Lord Halifax," says Burnet, ''fell ill, much 
" from a vexation of mind." His condition seemed serious ; 
and Burnet was professionally concerned. "For a fortnight 
" together," he says, " I was once a day with him ; and 
" found then that he had deeper impressions of religion on 
" him than those who knew the rest of his life would have 
"thought.... My being much with him...was reflected on; 
" it was said I had heightened his dissatisfaction to the 
" Court... though I was with him only as a divine." About 
the middle of January, the Minister, in disgust, retired to 
his Rufford estates ; and four other " Country " Privy 
Councillors soon resigned their seats. The experiment of 
the Spring had failed ; the "Country" party was "out." 

To Burnet the crisis seemed acute. He resolved to 
expostulate with the King ; and a second motive clinched 
his resolution. The greed and power of the reigning 
mistress, the accredited agent of France, were at this 
moment the theme of violent invective. Now six months 
earlier Burnet, at her own request, had attended a dying 
woman, who had been a favourite of the King's. Remorse 
had overwhelmed her ; and Burnet had urged her to dis- 
charge it in a letter of admonition to Charles. Her death 

1679-80] Letter to Charles II 159 

had prevented this ; but she had left with Burnet messages 
of warning for her royal paramour. Under these circum- 
stances, on January 29, 1679-80, Burnet addressed to 
Charles 1 1 the celebrated letter of remonstrance, first pub- 
lished, more than fifty years later, in the Life hy his son. It 
is there professedly printed from Burnet's own draft ; but 
a careful collation with the original now in the Bodleian 
Library reveals the curious fact that the published version 
is garbled. Fearful of adverse comment the editor has not 
only improved the grammar, but modified everything which 
could be tortured into a hint that Burnet had acted the spy. 
He has deleted, as savouring of " enthusiasm " all claim of 
divine commission ; and has omitted some terms of effusive 
loyalty, at odds with the incidents of Burnet's later career. 
We print such variations in italics. 

A brief exordium leads up to a purview of the actual 
situation. "...I never discovered anything like a design 
" of... rebellion among all those with whom I have conversed 
''for had I perceived that I should have most certainly 
''informed your majesty of it \ but... most people grow 
** sullen and are highly distrustful of you." Petitions are 
to be signed in favour of an immediate session ; and in case 
of a general election, the promoters of such addresses will 
generally succeed at the polls. The " soberer sort " 
declare against disorder, hoping^ that the King's neces- 
sities will ere long force his hand. " What those of other 
" tempers project I know not for I am familiarly acquainted 
" with none of them^ Supply will hardly be granted, save 
on exorbitant terms; "the things that will be demanded, 
" will not be of.. .easy.. .digestion.. .or indeed [such] that it 
" will be reasonable or honourable for you to grant them." 

Burnet then proposes the remedy. " There is," he says, 
*' one thing, and indeed the only thing, which all honest 
'* men with whom I keep company agree in, as that which can 
'* easily extricate you out of all your trouble. It is not the 
*' change of a minister or of a council, a new alliance or 
" a Session of Parliament, but it is (and suffer me to 
'* speak it with more than ordinary assurance and earnest- 
" ness) a change of your own heart, and of your course of 
" life. And now, sir, if you do not with indignation throw 
'* this paper from you, suffer me (with all the humility that 

i6o Letter to Charles II [ch. v 

" becomes one who as he was bom your subject, so vows he 
" will be ever ready to die for your service and as lying 
" prostrate at your feet, to tell you that all the distrust your 
** people have of you, all the necessities you are now in, all 
" the indignation of Heaven that is on you and appears 
** in the defeating of all your counsels, flow from this that 
" you have not feared nor served God, but have given your- 
** self up to so many sinful pleasures. Your majesty may 
** perhaps justly think that many of those who do oppose 
'* you have no regard to religion, but the body of your 
" people do consider it more than you may imagine. I do 
" not desire your majesty to put on a hypocritical shew of 
"religion, as Henry the Third of France did... that would 
** be soon seen through, and as it would provoke God more, 
" so it would increase jealousy.... [But] if you will but turn 
" yourself to religion sincerely and seriously, you shall quickly 
" find a serene joy of another nature possess your mind 
" than what rises from grosser pleasures. God would be 
** at peace with you, and direct and bless your counsels, 
" and all good men would presently turn to you, and ill men 
'' would be ashamed and have a thin party, for... there is 
'' nothing which has so alienated the body of your people 
" from you as what they have heard of your life which disposes 
" them to give an easy belief to all other scandalous 
"reports." Burnet recalls the disastrous effect which the 
Royal example, during a period of twenty years, has had 
on public morality. " I am " (he adds) ** no enthusiast 
" neither in opinion nor temper; yet I shsJl acknowledge I 
** have for a great while been so pressed in my mind to 
" make this address to you, that I could have no rest till 
" I did it ; and since you were graciously pleased to allow 
** me leave [direct me (printed version)] to send you through 
** Mr Chiffinch's hands what informations I judged fit to 
" convey to you, I hope you will not be offended, if I have 
" made this use of that liberty. / have not done it but after 
" much prayer and fasting ; and I am sure I can have no 
" other design in it but your majesty's good ; for I know 
" this is not the method to serve any end of mine...." In 
an unpublished postcript he refers to the commission re- 
ceived from the dead woman, Mrs Roberts. This he will 
deliver in person if allowed an audience. 

i68o] Its reception i6i 

He left the letter, at seven o clock the same evening, 
at Chiffinch's lodgings. Two days later, the Duke of 
Hamilton's son, then in waiting, told Burnet he had held 
the candle while the King accorded a first, and then a 
second, perusal to a paper in Burnet's hand. Charles had 
then reverted, a third time, to the beginning ; i,e. to the 
political information, for which alone he cared ; and had 
then, without a word, thrown the manuscript on the fire. 

The King himself never acknowledged the letter, but 
spoke of Burnet, subsequently, " with great sharpness." 
His displeasure, though not its cause, seems to have become 
generally known. Wilmot, Earl of Rochester, the most 
brilliant libertine of the day, was now, in the intervals of 
failing health, turning to graver interests. He had read 
with appreciation the first instalment of the Reformation ; 
and now told the King "he wondered why he would use 
" a writer of history ill ; for such people can revenge them- 
" selves." Charles characteristically retorted (as Burnet 
himself reports), " I durst say nothing while he was alive; 
** when he was dead he should not be the worse for what 
" I said." 

Thus ended an episode, more creditable to Burnet's 
professional courage than to his political discernment. The 
reformation of the Royal morals, however much to be 
desired, could not certainly, at this stage, have affected the 
political deadlock. 

During the first six months of the year 1680, Burnet 
was hard at work on the second instalment of his history. 
He appears to have visited Oxford early in the Long 
Vacation ; the rest of the time was spent in London. The 
intervals of his more sustained labour seem to have pro- 
duced a remarkable tract on the '' Infallibility of the Roman 
" Church " ; which, though little known, is one of his most 
characteristic productions. ** That [the] Catholic Church is 
"the Roman... seems" (he premises) "a bull as plainly as 
" a General Particular." ** Reason," he proceeds, "[is] the 
" only part of our nature that was bom to liberty, and can 
*' defy all the severe rigours of Tyranny. •..Whatever power 
" the Civil Magistrates or the guides of the Church may 
'* have over my actions or profession of my faith, yet as 
" long as it keeps within my head and breast (its natural 

B. II 

1 62 Views on Infallibility [cilv 

" dwelling-place), it is a violation of the sacredness of that 
''sanctuary to invade it... or make it prisoner. And when 
** I further consider that reason is nothing but a com- 
** munication of Divine light to make me understand those 
" propositions, of which some hints were born with my soul, 
" and the rest are offered to me in sacred writings, if 
" I throw off this, and betake myself to the dictates of 
" others, I exchange the sun for the moon." Meeting the 
argument that an infallible guide is indispensable for the 
Church, he admits, indeed, that "our blessed Saviour" will 
have provided those for whom He died with all things 
essential to salvation. But miraculous infallibility of mind 
was not, he argues, so valuable to this end as miraculous 
infallibility oiwill\ which latter none dare claim. Knowledge 
and faith (after all) are but means to a good life ; heresy, 
according to St Paul, is but one among the works of the 
flesh ; why is not supernatural provision made against the 
others? The humble and reverent believer cannot help 
his sincere belief. A distincter conviction is of course 
required ere we disturb another's faith ; the guides of the 
Church must try the innovator by Scripture, and their 
censure will always carry weight Moreover the Church 
can excommunicate ; the magistrate fine and banish those 
held inimical to the peace of the body; and he who decides 
to follow God rather than man must meekly accept the 
consequence. What need then of an infallible judge? 
Innocent error cannot compromise our salvation ; the 
magistrate, though not infallible, can maintain the public 
peace. Moreover infallibility — a vast claim — needs vast 
proof for its substantiation. Miracles and purity of doctrine 
serve, in the Scriptures, as tokens of divine Commission. 
Even admitting, therefore, the need of an infallible judge, 
where shall we seek — how try him ? The Eastern Churches 
were the older, the richer in martyrs, most esteemed in the 
great Councils; "I am tempted" (says Burnet) "to seek 
'* this judge there : but when I see in what ignorance they live, 
** and how the pressures they groan under, though they have 
'* not prevailed on them to renounce the name of Christ, 
** yet have brought them to a degenerate mean[nes]s which 
" I love not to dwell on... since the circumstances they are 
"in plead pity rather than scorn.... I am forced to turn 

i68o] Correspondence of the summer 163 

" away from them." But when he looks upon the triumphant 
Church of the West, is the sight more impressive? **The piety 
** to which she pretends is either immured in her cloisters, or 
" appears only in faces and outward postures of devotion : 
" [and] after my most impartial enquiries, I can see no reason 
*' to esteem the Head of this Church [such] a Saint, or such 
'' a Clerk, that I must adore his person and submit to his 
** decrees." Again, where may this supposed infallibility 
reside } With admirable temper, and a logic truly merciless, 
does Burnet dissect the various explanations given by the 
Roman Schools ; the divergent claims of Pope, Conclave, 
Council. In fine, the promise of an infallible guide dwindles 
down into the order to obey one's priest ; while priests, it 
is known, differ. "And now, Sir," he tells his opponent, 
** after I have led you through a great many thickets and 
" enclosures, I am afraid I leave you in a labyrinth.... And 
'' I choose rather than engage in so dangerous a passage to 
" take the sacred writings which you and I both acknow- 
** ledge to be divine, and peruse them with all serious care, 
** hoping that God will so direct me, that if I be not wanting 
" to myself, I shall not err in any matter of salvation." 

Meanwhile, despite these complicated labours, Burnet 
found time for voluminous correspondence. Much of this 
concerned the manuscript and proofs of the History ; being 
directed to the learned antiquary, Fulman, who rendered 
invaluable assistance. 

We also find traces of an active correspondence between 
Burnet and ** Mr James Fall " (a pupil of Leighton's), after- 
wards Principal of Glasgow University and editor of 
Leightons works. He had been tutor to Lord Kin- 
cardine's eldest son, one of Burnet's old pupils, whose 
death Burnet deplores in a letter of Februarj' 17, 1679-80. 
With his usual frank generosity Burnet offered the young 
pedagogue out of place an asylum in his own house. 
Fall however preferred to accept an appointment as 
travelling tutor to Lord Queensbury s son, which took him 
to Paris. In writing thither, Burnet incidentally mentions 
that he had himself intended a visit to Scotland, but that 
his friends had dissuaded him. 

A still larger share of Burnet's disposable attention was 
devoted to Lord Halifax, who spent the summer in seclu- 

II — 2 


164 Conversion of Lord Rochester [ca v 

sion at his seat of Rufford. Burnet's letters to the states- 
man in retreat are very good reading. He professed 
himself absorbed in research. " I told one that asked 
" me [for] news two days ago I was very well furnished 
" with a great deal, but it Mras all about a 130 years old ; 
"being now almost all the day long in the Cotton library. 
...In this place of news and talk it is some happiness to 
have one's head full of anything that either keeps out or 
" soon drives out the impression which the things he sees or 
'' hears makes upon him." But this fictitious detachment 
from contemporary interests could not long be maintained. 
"I cannot'* (Burnet ingenuously admits) "sit so close but 
" the hum of the town finds me out." In plain English he 
was fully abreast of political gossip ; and these letters are 
practically " news-letters " which shew us the History of 
my own Time in the making. Like the majority of 
postal communications in the 1 7th century they are marked 
by a certain reticence ; the most individual touches 
convey Burnet's admiration for his noble correspondent, 
qualified by regrets at his supposed heterodox specu- 
lations. Burnet's references to the dramatic "conversion" 
of the dying Lord Rochester involve an obvious implication. 
Rochester (already attracted by the Reformation histo- 
rian) had been further prepossessed in his favour, by his 
firm yet kindly treatment of a dying penitent, who had 
been Rochester's mistress. The obvious indifference of the 
divine for ecclesiastical preferment had enhanced the 
favourable impression ; and after several accidental meet- 
ings, Rochester, in October, 1679, had obtained a formal 
introduction. During the six months following their inter- 
course had been frequent ; and Rochester had laid bare in 
talk with Burnet his objections to religion in general and 
Christianity in particular. He himself professed a vague 
naturalistic Deism; believed in a survival of "the soul" 
but not in continuity of consciousness ; and shame for 
the excesses of former debauchery was qualified by the 
belief that sensual desire, as natural to man, is unnaturally 
restricted by monogamy. Burnet's arguments, if they did 
not entirely "subdue" Rochester's understanding at least 
impressed it. By April, 1 680, when he left London for the 
Ranger's Lodge, Woodstock, "he was not," says Burnet, 

i68o] Burnet fails of Preferment 165 

** arrived at a full persuasion of Christianity," but he no 
longer scoffed ; and declined to propagate irreligion. He 
had resolved on a complete moral reformation, and had 
resumed the practice of prayer. ** The touching his heart " 
however, **was that," says Burnet, "which God reserved 
" for himself" While listening to one who read aloud the 
prophecies of Isaiah he had been overwhelmed by a rush 
of religious conviction ; and died the passionate votary of 
the faith he had scorned. 

Meanwhile Burnet's own concerns were in frequent 
agitation. His friend Lloyd was vacating St Martin's, 
Westminster, for the Bishopric of St Asaph. St Martin's, 
the chief London parish, was a living in the Lord Chan- 
cellor's gift ; and Halifax seems to have hoped that Burnet 
might succeed. On July 17 we find Burnet acknow- 
ledging these good wishes, but with little expectation of 
their realization ; '* You know how I am stated too well to 
'* think they can have effect." It was rumoured that the 
incumbent of Covent Garden might remove to St Martin's ; 
and Russell, the "Country" leader, commended Burnet to 
his father. Lord Bedford, the patron of the former living. 
" What he resolves" (writes Burnet) ** I do not know ; for I am 
" now so hot at work about my History that I scarce see any- 
" body [save ?] on Thursdays and Sundays." The suggested 
arrangement, however, cost Patrick St Martin's. ** If I am 
"now," writes Burnet, "in such a character, God knows 
** what I am to expect when I have finished my History. 
" I have been close at it now a month, and am at present 
" pretty far in Queen Mary's reign, but I have met with so 
" many passages which have not been known before, that 
" will be thought such [as] if they had [been] laid together 
" on design to cross the Duke's interest ; so that except 
'* I prevaricate I must resolve to be for ever under his high 
" displeasure ; but I shall tell truth, and am not accountable 
" for the use others will draw from it." 

This excellent principle Burnet carried into practice in 
other and contrary quarters. On September 2nd — anniver- 
sary of the Great Fire — he preached to the City Corporation, 
a strongly ** Exclusionist" body. The sins of the trading 
classes, and the nemesis of party passion, are the themes of 
this unsparing tirade. 

1 66 Receives his Doctor's Degree [ch. v 

That autumn the success of his published Reformation 
volume earned for Burnet a compliment which he no doubt 
valued. Early in October, at the instigation of Archbishop 
Bancroft, the University of Oxford conferred on Burnet 
a Divinity Doctor's degree. 

Meanwhile he was rapidly completing the narrative of 
his second volume. It was written currente calamo\ and 
having been commenced in July, was, after six weeks' work, 
completed early in September. In its preface, dated 
September lo, Burnet professes his loyalty for the Church 
of his adoption. But the high-water mark of his Anglican 
fervour had been reached long before and where he had 
formerly praised he now saw much to condemn. In this 
preface, for the first time, he animadverts on those corrupt 
practices so obvious, in the long run, to one educated under 
other auspices. Pluralities — non-residence — the inequality 
of parochial endowments — the absence of penitential dis- 
cipline — the abuses of the Ecclesiastical Courts — excite his 
unsparing censure. Nor are we surprised to find that the 
sense of evils which cried aloud for redress renders him 
thenceforth gentler to those who had left the fold. 

The work was at once put to the press; and despite 
Fulman's delays the greater part was ready by Christmas. 

Hardly however was the ink of the manuscript dry, ere 
its indefatigable author was engaged in fresh labours. The 
biographical sketch, entitled, Some passages of the Life 
and Death of...John.*.earl of Rochester y was written in 
accordance with the dead man's desire. The cogency of 
this celebrated tract, which Dr Johnson so epigrammatically 
commends to "the critic for its elegance, the philoso- 
"pher for its arguments, and the saint for its piety" will 
be variously judged, according to the prepossessions of the 
reader; but its literary merits are beyond dispute. The 
essence of the book lies in the dialogues between Burnet 
and Rochester, which are rendered with singular felicity. 
The effective condensation of theological argument is 
Burnet's special aptitude; his earliest works had shewn 
dialectic skill; and the dialogue form gains here much in 
vivacity from the character of the protagonists. Even 
Charles II expressed his admiration, which was very 
generally shared. The work nevertheless aroused much 

i68o] The Life of Rochester 167 

hostile criticism. Burnet was charged, absurdly enough, 
with violating, to his own glorification, the secrets of con- 
fession, and as absurdly blamed for venting, through the 
mouth of Rochester, **the monstrous principles of Spinoza." 

Meanwhile the political situation was rapidly developing. 
Parliament, after seven prorogations, was summoned for 
October 17 ; and all parties rallied their forces for a grand 
final struggle. During the absence of Halifax, Shaftes- 
bury and his ** Exclusionists" had rapidly gained ground ; 
and had convinced, cajoled, or terrified into acquiescence 
the majority of the ** Country" party. 

Among these new converts Burnet must now be 
reckoned. He was never indeed an enthusiast for the 
*| Exclusion " issue. But Halifax away, Burnet had fallen 
under the influence of men who certainly belonged to that 

William, Lord Russell, son and heir of Lord Bedford, held 
a unique position in the councils of the " Country " party, 
"His al)ilities'* (to apply an epigram of Miss Edge- 
worths) ** were nothing extraordinary ; his character was 
" first-rate." Though a rare and a reluctant speaker, sheer 
good sense, and simple force of character had carried him 
to the position of command ; while his vast " stake in the 
"country" and his complete freedom from personal am- 
bition, guaranteed his good faith. 

Protestant zeal no doubt inspired RusselFs "Exclu- 
" sionist" fervour. Arguments of expediency had probably 
turned the scale with Lord Essex, an administrator and 
diplomatist of some ability, who, during the preceding year, 
had acted with Halifax. 

It was to these practical arguments that Burnet's con- 
version was due. The majority of the old " Country " party 
being now ''violently set" on the "Exclusion," the offer 
of Limitations (so Burnet feared) must divide, and thus ruin 
the party. 

Similar considerations, it was hoped, would secure Lord 
Halifax's adhesion ; and the rumour that he stood his 
ground excited extreme irritation. Burnet did his utmost 
to prevent the threatened breach. ** I got," he says, " many 
" meetings appointed between Lord Halifax and some 
"leading men... [but] without effect." Nor was personal 

1 68 The Exclusion contest [ch. v 

urgency wanting. "Both Tillotson and I," says Burnet, 
'* who thought we had some interest in Lord Halifax, took 
"great pains on him to divert him from opposing... so 
"furiously as he did." It was of no avail. Haughtily 
ignoring threats which recalled his relationship to Strafford, 
Halifax "became as it were the champion against the 
" Exclusion." The great man's obstinacy exasperated 
Burnet's apprehensions ; and the comments he inserts in 
his History are decidedly invidious. " The truth is," he 
says, " Lord Halifax's hatred of the Earl of Shaftesbury and 
" his vanity in desiring to have his own notion preferred, 
" sharpened him at that time to much indecency and fury." 

The crisis soon came. By enormous majorities the 
Commons endorsed the popular policy. On the 5th of 
November ("snatching," it was said, the parchment from the 
table of the House of Commons) Lord Russell bore to the 
bar of the Lords a Bill of Exclusion. During the fierce 
debate which followed, Halifax rose supreme; and when, on 
the first reading, the Lords rejected the Bill, the furious 
majority in the Commons turned to rend its conqueror. To 
some, he seemed a Papist in disguise ; to others, an Atheist. 

Burnet meanwhile basked in the favour of the House. 
On December 22 was held a "solemn public fast that God 
"would prevent all popish plots, avert his judgments, and give 
" a blessing to the proceedings of Parliament" To Burnet 
fell the morning sermon, before the Commons, at St 
Margaret's. His text was the apocalyptic appeal to the 
Church of Sardis. Impressively he contrasts the long roll 
of national blessings with the tale of the national sins ; and 
the awful cataclysms of the past enforce a call to national 
repentance. Nor does the preacher fail to urge upon the 
conscience of the Legislature its corporate responsibility. 
The suppression of vice, the increase of parochial en- 
dowments, the support of the Protestants abroad, are 
pressed upon his hearers. The command to hold fast 
the truth however evokes more invidious comments. The 
cruelty of Rome is pictured from his yet unpublished 
volume ; her machinations are denounced ; she has 
ever plotted and practised when unable to bum and 
destroy. Severities in religion are condemned, as contrary 
to humanity, and to rules reiterated in Scripture ; but this 

i68o] Burnet and the Commons 169 

admirably tolerant exordium is marred by large reservations. 
Religious persecution Burnet indeed abhors; but he does 
not except against the political prosecution of creeds which 
trouble the peace. '* If any sect of Religion continues to 
" breed frequent and almost uninterrupted disturbances in 
" any government [and] it is evident, as it is certainly in 
** this case, that their doctrine sets them on," such sect 
should (he submits^ be summarily banished the realm. 

This remarkable discourse drew from the House of 
Commons an extraordinary vote of thanks. In this the 
sermon was coupled with the first Reformation volume; 
and the House of Lords concurred in the second part of 
the vote. Dr Sprat, who preached in the afternoon, pleased 
the Commons less and the King better ; he got no thanks 
from the one, but a good cure from the other ; which (as 
Charles maintained) was worth considerably more. 

Such being Burnet's popularity with the Commons, the 
friends of Halifax not unnaturally invoked his efforts on 
behalf of that unpopular peer. His stepfather " moved...," 
says Burnet, ** I might be sent for to satisfy the House as 
'* to the truth of his religion. I wish," he piously adds, 
'^ I could have said as much to have persuaded them that 
** he was a good Christian as that he was no Papist." 

Another incident of the stormy session was the trial of 
Lord Stafford, the most important victim of the **Plot" 
imposture. Lloyd (by this time Bishop of St Asaphs) could 
have blasted the credit of a witness, but had feared a use- 
less odium ; and Burnet condoned this cowardice. Lord 
Halifax, on the other hand, had boldly voted for acquittal. 
The unhappy peer was condemned ; and sending for Burnet 
and the Bishop of London, earnestly assured them of his 
innocence. At a second interview he revealed certain 
schemes for a general toleration, to which not only York 
but Shaftesbury had been privy. These revelations, which 
did not save the doomed man, brought upon Burnet (who 
seems to have acted with unwonted discretion) unmerited 
censure. He was accused of suggesting the charges ; and 
while York, in consequence, conceived for him "an 
"implacable hatred," Shaftesbury, who looked on Burnet as 
the tool of Halifax, " railed " so unmercifully that Burnet 
approached him no more. 

In fact, like the rest of the world, he was beginning to 

170 The Reaction begins [ch. v 

view with disgust the despotic insolence displayed by the 
" Exclusion " party ; and he seems to have swerved once more 
toward a less drastic solution. In talk with Littleton he 
had criticized the Halifax Limitations as too republican 
in tendency, and had suggested a Protectorate, or as 
Littleton rather called it, a Regency. This should vest, 
on a demise of the Crown, in the person of the Prince of 
Orange, husband of the Duke's daughter and heiress. 
** We dressed up a scheme of this," says Burnet, " for near 
" two hours ; and I dreamt no more of it But some 
"days after he told me the notion took with some and 
''that.. .Halifax... liked it." Towards the end of January, 
the insensate violence of the Commons almost compelled a 
dissolution ; and Littleton then told Burnet, in strict con- 
fidence, that his plan took with the King. He urged 
Burnet to press the project among his allies ; but Burnet 
made no headway. The friends of Monmouth were of 
course hostile ; others were pledged to the Exclusion Bill ; 
and the lawyers shrank, as such, from the constitutional com- 
plications involved. 

The King however had resolved on a final effort After 
a brief interval (during which the second Reformation 
volume actually appeared), a new Parliament met at Oxford 
on March 21. The Regency compromise, proposed by 
Littleton, was immediately rejected ; the " Exclusionists " 
reintroduced their measure; and a week after its first 
meeting the King summarily dissolved his last Parliament 

The "Exclusion" party was thus completely checkmated, 
and the reaction began. " Popular heats," says Burnet, "have 
" their ebbings and flowings." The violence of the "Exclu- 
sionists" now recoiled on themselves ; and Oates, whom they 
had championed, was involved in their general discredit 

Under these circumstances, Burnet's position was 
invidious. " I had been," he says, " much trusted by both 
" sides and that is a very dangerous state ; for a man may 
" come upon that to be hated and suspected by both." The 
general drift of his previous action, and his continued inti- 
macy with Russell and Essex, tended to identify him with the 
" Exclusionists," now derisively known as "Whigs"; and he 
incurred correspondingodium. "When such changes happen" 
(he wrote later on) " those who have been as to the main 
" with the side that is run down, will be charged with all 

1 68 1 ] Burnefs position 1 7 1 

**the errors of their side, how much soever they may have 
" opposed them. I who had been always in distrust of the 
" witnesses, and dissatisfied with the whole method of pro- 
"ceedings, yet came to be fallen on, not only in pamphlets 
" and poems, but even in sermons, as if I had been an 
** incendiary, and a main stickler against the Court, and in 
** particular against the duke." The unpopularity which 
Burnet thus incurred among his clerical brethren (who had 
rallied almost unanimously to the Court, or "Tory" faction) 
accounts for the exaggerated spleen with which his Memoirs 
of two years later characterize the clergy. His diatribes, 
through an act of treachery, were long after surreptitiously 
published ; and Burnet (to use an expressive colloquialism) 
** never heard the last " of these petulant sallies. 

But Burnet was no thorough-paced " Whig." He 
repudiated, as we shall see, the name; and still rejected, 
as essentially immoral, the "Whig" approval of ultimate 
physical ** resistance." Moreover, he was repudiated, with 
at least equal fervour, by extreme members of the party. For 
his clandestine correspondence with the Court was, as we 
have seen, an open secret ; his betrayal of Grimston's con- 
fidence could not be forgotten. The Regency project he had 
favoured displeased the party ; and his continued relations 
with Halifax increased "Whig" reserve. For Halifax, 
forced by "Whig" violence into alliance with the Court, 
enjoyed at this moment a precarious ascendency in its 
counsels. His statesmanlike advice galled the "Tories," 
flushed by their recent success ; and he spared no effort to 
"rally" more moderate allies. He "pressed" Burnet 
** vehemently" (says the latter) to "accept of preferment at 
" Court ; and said, if I would give him leave to make 
" promises in my name he would obtain for me any prefer- 
" ment I pleased. But I would enter into no engagements. 
** I was contented with the condition I was in, which was 
" above . necessity, though below envy." Nor was he at 
all ambitious of parochial responsibilities. The dean and 
chapter of St Paul's had offered him an important city 
living, but he shrank from the charge ; while on the other 
hand he very properly refused an excellent country benefice, 
which Essex would have given, on condition that he would 
not reside. He was less disinclined, however, to the 

1 72 He goes into Retirement [ch. v 

mastership of the Temple ; preferring at this moment, as 
his Memoirs suggest, the continued companionship of 
lawyers to that of divines. The King, urged by Halifax 
and others, promised the reversion ; and Halifax, says 
Burnet, ** carried me" to the king. With him Burnet had 
never spoken since the episode of the admonitory letter 
eighteen months before. Halifax, says Burnet, " intro- 

* duced me with a very extraordinary compliment, that he 
' did not bring me to the king to put me in his good opinion, 
' so much as to put the king in [mine] ; and added, he 
' hoped that the king would not only take me into his 
' favour, but into his heart. The king had a peculiar faculty, 
' of saying obliging things with a very good grace ; among 
' other things, he said he knew that if I pleased I could 

* serve him very considerably ; and that he desired no 
' service from me longer than he continued true to the 
' church and to the law. Lord Halifax upon that added 
' that the king knew he served him on the same terms.... 

* The discourse lasted half an hour, very hearty and free ; 
' so I was in favour again. But I could not hold it I was 
' told I kept ill company: the persons Lord Halifax named 
' to me were the Earl of Essex, Lord Russell, and Jones. 
' But I said I would upon no consideration give over con- 
' versing with my friends ; and so I was where I was 
' before." 

Burnet took the sensible line. ** I went," he says, "into a 

' closer retirement ; and to keep " (as he puts it) " my mind 

'from running after news and affairs," he resumed an 

early devotion to natural science and algebra. " I diverted 

" myself," he adds, " with many processes in chemistry." 

A curious anecdote, preserved in Wodrow s Analecta, 
suggests that he also continued to take an interest in that 
strange society which represented the mystic side of 
mediaeval ** alchemy." For two years later he told a 
Scotchman, in Paris, that he had once gone in disguise to 
a Rosicrucian meeting. There he saw no one he knew ; and 
yet the speaker began by mentioning that a spy was present 
who boasted of his great memory, and who "should hear their 
"great truths but should not be able to carry away one word." 
Burnet, piqued by this, composed himself to exact attention ; 
but after a "charming" and (as Burnet l^elieved) perfectly 

i68i] The Scottish Test 173 

intelligible discourse, he came away unable to remember a 
sentence. This he attributed to preternatural powers. 

But he did not neglect more orthodox concerns. " I 
"hope," he says, "I went into the best exercises from which 
" I had been much diverted by the bustling of a great town 
*' in so hot a time... I withdrew much from all conversation ; 
" only I lived still in a particular confidence with the Lords 
"of Essex and Russell." 

Scotch affairs however compelled his attention. On 
August 3 1 of this year passed the Act imposing a famous 
" Test Oath." This, originally introduced by the Opposi- 
tion as a bulwark against Rome, was partially transmuted 
by the Court in its own favour. A tangle of inconsistencies 
resulted ; offensive, though in different directions, to every 
party concerned. Moderate Episcopalians, however, of the 
school of Leighton and Naime, were specially touched ; 
and Charteris wrote to Burnet, begging him to impede, 
by every means in his power, the actual imposition olf 
the Oath. Intervention was clearly vain ; and Burnet 
(fearful lest a new schism should deprive the unhappy 
Church of Scotland of the members he regarded as her 
best) strained every nerve to allay the scruples of his 
friends. Upon Hamilton, who consulted him on the point, 
he urged the danger of refusal ; and while pressing him to 
act as conscience should dictate, avowed a belief that the 
objections advanced to the Oath were excessively subtle. 
'* I also," he says, " writ a paper.. .which was sent about 
" among my friends." The circular in question is now in 
the Bodleian Library, and defines, with absolute clearness, 
Burnet s contemporary attitude on the questions at issue. 

He lays down two general axioms. L " That we are 
" not so much to look at... secret... jealousies " [respecting the 
aim of given laws] "as at the declared designs... set forth in 
"their preambles." H. "That we ought always to pre- 
" sume in favours of Law, and that a moderation (you know 
" the Greek word for it) is to be used in softening the 
" words of laws, so as to make them ag^ee with the general 
" scope of them, and to mitigate the harshness that may be 
" in them by the best interpretation that they can well 
" bear." In other words, his robust good sense deprecates 
pedantic scrupulosity. 

174 Burnet on Church establishment [ch. v 

In particular, he urges that the obligation to an obsolete 
Confession ( — " a system of many opinions, of which some 
*' are supposed to be doubtful and others false " — ) can 
only imply adhesion to its main drift-— can only connote 
the profession of the Calvinistic as opposed to the 
Lutheran theology. 

But the Oath obliges to the defence of "all the King s 
"Rights, Jurisdictions, and Prerogatives"; including of 
course the Ecclesiastical Supremacy as "extraordinarfil]y 
" enlarge[d] or assert[ed]** by a recent Scotch Act. And 
why not ? The oath merely compels one to acknowledge a 
fact. For it is true, that, by that law, the Legislature of 
Scotland has conferred on the King without reserve, and 
as Burnet maintains without power of revocation, "the 
'* external government of the Church." This is now as 
exclusively his, as are "the Militia, Peace and War, the 
" Coin and several other great Prerogatives." The King, 
he allows, cannot "change the nature of things" or "take 
" away any of the rights that Christ or his apostles have 
" lodged with the Church." But he can if he please deny 
it "public encouragement" {i.e. in modern language, dis- 
establish it); reduce it to the position it holds where 
" Heathenism or Mohammedanism are the legal Religions." 
If therefore " the King should employ his prerogative to 
'* take away Episcopacy, this would not at all lessen the 
'' obligation that such as believe it is of divine institution 
'*are under of obeying their Bishop; it would [only] make 
" it costly or penal." Burnet, in fact, fixes his attention on 
a single point now very generally conceded ; the political 
subordination of all corporations to the State. Most men 
now-a-days, whatever their prepossessions, suppose it com- 
petent to disestablish a church. Such fiat binds the 
subject, as does the sentence of a judicial tribunal ; to 
which all must submit, though they think the verdict unjust. 

What then as to the "great extent of the civil 
obedience " embraced within the Oath } By this " all sort 
" of resistance of any commissioned by the King, together 
^* with all assemblies to consult of matters of State, civil or 
*' ecclesiastical, are condemned and renounced ; upon which 
** the Law of Self-preservation seems to lie heavy." 
Burnet answers, that the Supreme Authority in a State — 

1 68 1] Burnet on Civil rights 175 

in Scotland, the King and the Estates combined — is absolute 
trustee of the whole liberty and property of the nation ; and 
its Acts, if passed in free session, bind, unconditionally, 
'* every single man " within the realm. This doctrine — 
with certain reservations — is held, to-day, by all save 
extremist minorities. We all obey laws (and most of us pay 
rates and taxes) of which at heart we disapprove. But if 
no appeal — save the desperate appeal of the sword — can 
lie from supreme authority — there is at least supposed to 
remain an appeal to it; the appeal from "Philip Drunk" to 
"Philip Sober." Burnet however seems to argue that 
a legislative decision, once given, may be given beyond 
legitimacy of recall. " As one man may sell himself and 
** become a slave. ..and [having] given away his liberty 
" cannot pretend to reassume it again," so Estates of 
Parliament can barter irrecoverably the liberties of the 
land they represent The case, as Burnet maintains, has 
actually happened. " By making a law concerning the 
" militia and the use of the sword, by which they have 
" lodged those in the King or [have] declared that they 
" were formerly lodged in him " the Estates " have ended 
"the matter." It is useless to argue further the question 
of natural rights. 

The denunciation of Ecclesiastical assemblies can, he 
says, but refer to "such tables, assemblies, and other 
** unlawful conventions that were the unhappy beginnings 
"of the late wars." It does not bar meetings "to carry 
" on the plain ends of the Christian Religion " ; but only 
Assemblies, such as that of Glasgow in 1638, which 
attempt "to alter Laws and to inflame the nation against 
"the King"; and whose consultations "shake or at least 
" very much concern the State." 

Finally, " the renouncing all obligation of any sort to 
"endeavour any change or alteration in the Government 
" either in Church or State...seems to contain a limitation 
" of all mens endeavours of amending.. .or perfecting... our 
** present Constitution. But... there are two senses, that 
" may belong to two terms in this branch of the Test... the 
"word endeavour [and]... the word change or alteration. 
" Endeavour may either be meant Physically, that is to go 
" about to work any change ourselves ; or Morally, that is to 

176 Burnet and the ''Test'' Nonjurors [ch. v 

" persuade the King and the Parliament to make changes." 
Physical endeavours "are really acts of resistance and so 
'* are unlawful things " ; it is to them alone that the oath of 
renunciation could refer. In like manner the term " change 
" or alteration " cannot mean every ** little variation " which 
in ''a strict and metaphysical sense" may be called a 
"change'*; but only "so great a reversing of present 
" establishments as may be called, in a political sense, a 
" change or alteration. " Common sense, in fact, must decide. 

These arguments may have influenced the synod of 
Aberdeen ; but most of those whom he addressed, Charteris 
included, refused the oath, and resigned. Yet Burnet shewed 
no petty resentment; and though he had incurred some 
obloquy in Scotland by his recommendation of submission, 
he now drew upon himself the anger of the Court by his 
exertions for the sufferers. "About twenty" of the dis- 
possessed clergy "came up," he says, "to England. I found 
" them men of excellent tempers, pious and learned ; and I 
" esteemed it no small happiness that I had then so much 
" credit, by the ill opinion they had of me at Court, that by 
" this means I got most of them to be well settled in England." 
His correspondence with Sir Edward Harley, a leading 
"Whig," shews the energy of this generous interposition. 

No less earnest was he on behalf of the Earl of Argyll, 
the Lord Lorn of his youth, long since married to 
Burnet's early friend. Lady Balcarres. The capital con- 
viction of the Earl for taking the Test with reservations, 
aroused general horror, and stained the reputation of York. 
Burnet eagerly fanned Lord Halifax's just indignation; 
and tried to secure his co-operation with so unlikely an ally 
as the discarded Viceroy, Lauderdale. Burnet even pro- 
jected a reconciliation between himself and his old enemy, 
now at death's door. He tells us that he refrained from a visit, 
on the advice of his friends, who warned him of the wrath 
which his proceedings had excited at head quarters; but that 
Lauderdale sent him some "very kind messages." Hickes 
(who had been Lauderdale's chaplain) represents Burnet as 
craving a pardon which Lauderdale, while declining inter- 
course, granted " as a Christian." Meanwhile, the indigna- 
tion of York was intensified by a letter of well-merited 
rebuke addressed by Burnet to a member of Argyll's jury. 

i68i-2] He displays prudence 177 

Under such circumstances even Burnet realised the 
necessity for circumspection. About January, 1682, while 
Argyll, having broken prison, was supposed to be lurking 
in London, Burnet, for reasons unknown, removed to 
the other side of Holborn. ** Brook Buildings, raised out 
**of a large house and garden belonging to the Lord 
** Brooks," included Greville Street, which ran behind 
Furnivairs Inn, from Brook Street to Leather Lane. In 
Greville Street he settled ; and it was there apparently, 
that in order to escape any general "obligation of returning 
** visits** he ** built a laboratory; and for above a year... 
'* ran through some courses of chemistry." This, adds 
Burnet, " helped me in my philosophical notions ; was 
''a pleasant amusement to me, and furnished me with a 
"good excuse for staying much at home." 

Whenever he could meanwhile he deprecated the Royal 
resentment. ** I shall next tell you,' he wrote December 5, 
1682, to the poetess Mrs Wharton, a cousin of Lord 
Rochester, ** what an instance I have given of my resigna- 
"tion to the King's pleasure within these three days. 
** There were some sent to make me the proffer of a living 
"falling in London; which, though but worth ;^I50, they 
" offered to make it to me ;^300 ; but I said, since the King 
"had expressed his displeasure at my having a place in 
" London, I would not do anything that might be thought 
" a contempt ; and being pressed by them to write to the 
" Marquis of Halifax, to know if the King was still of the 
"same mind, I writ to him, and among other things told 
** him that, though my understanding was somewhat sullen,* 
"and not so complaisant as to think of matters as my 
" interest might determine me, yet as to all my concerns, 
'' none alive should pay a more undisputed obedience to the 
" King's pleasure than I should do ; upon which I had the 
" enclosed answer which you shall bum as soon as you have 
"read it. I had likewise a message sent me" from the 
court "by the new Earl of Rochester (I hope this name 
" does not discompose you, as I confess it does me a little) 
" that I should have whatever I would lay my hand on in 
"the country if I would leave the town; but I sent him 
" word by the Earl of Arran, that brought the message, that 
" I would pretend to nothing, and desire nothing, but to be 

B. 12 


1 78 Is called a Trimmer [ch. v 

"suffered to enjoy my retirement without disturbance or 
** jealousy." 

Such neutrality however but exasperated the extreme 
Tories. " I do not know," he writes a month later to 
Mrs Wharton, *'if you have heard of the new name about the 
** town, of Trimmers ; with which, among many others much 
** better than I" — (we may instance Halifax) — *'the high- 
** flying blades here have been pleased to dignify me. / am 
. ^' glad at least that they are so favourable as not to count me 
' *' a downright Whig!' Yet, despite these attacks he declined 
to encourage hopes of further approximation to the Court. 
** As for your commending my obedience" (he wrote to Mrs 
Wharton) "and the effects you hope may follow upon it... 
" I have a great opinion of the decencies inferiors owe to 
"their superiors.... But... I do not care to receive an obliga- 
" tion from some sorts of persons ; for to a generous mind 
*' no fetters pinch more than these favours do : and, since I 
"will preserve my liberty, I will not give any such a hold 
" on me as that would be, even to my thoughts." 

Even Lord Halifax, while applauding his refusal, in 
vain deprecated his attitude of aloofness from the Court. 
" Though I was tender," writes the Marquis, " in advising 
" you to waive anything you might think advantageous for 
*' you, yet since you have thought fit to do it, I am at liberty 
*' to approve it. And I only desire you will not make too 
" hasty resolutions concerning yourself, and not be carried 
" so far by the sudden motions of a self-denying generosity, 
" as to shut the door against those advantages, which you 
" may expect with justice, and may receive without indecency. 
" Only a little patience is requisite and in the meantime no 
"greater restraint upon your behaviour and conversation 
" than every prudent man, under your character and circum- 
" stances, would choose voluntarily to impose on himself... 
" Your withdrawing yourself from your old friends on this 
" corrupted side of the town... I can neither approve for my 
" own sake, nor for yours ; for besides many other objections 
" such a total separation will make you by degrees think less 
" equally, both of men and things, than you have hitherto 
^'professed to do in what relates to the public!' 

The passage we have italicized is of course extremely 
important, coming from " the Trimmer " himself 

1682-3] His letters to Mrs JVharton 179 

This flattering appeal, however, failed entirely of its 
effect. " I went," says Burnet, " no more near any that 
"belonged to the Court." Yet the overtures which had 
been made were repeated ; in a letter of February 1 5, 
1682-3 (written to his friend Mr Fall at Paris), he alludes 
once more to his rejection of proffered preferment, whereof 
a fresh instance had occurred the preceding week. " I 
"continue," he adds, "as I did, living much at home." 

But Burnet, despite his reserve, could not altogether 
decline visits, which tended to increase. Among his re- 
maining intimates we find his countryman, Mr Brisbane, 
Secretary of the Admiralty, a very accomplished man, 
and a decided Tory ; while once at least, in the spring of 
1683, Lord Halifax summoned him, and gave him, ob- 
viously for publication, details of a breach between his 
lordship and his "Tory" colleague, Lord Rochester. 

Burnet's correspondence with Mrs Wharton, meanwhile, 
during the autumn and winter of 1682, possesses biographical 
interest. It probably originated with the Life of Rochester 
and in the fact that Mrs Wharton, under the pressure of 
personal trials, leaned like her cousin towards sceptical 
opinions. " L. .earnestly desire...," wrote Burnet, " be... 
" instrumental in so glorious a conquest, as any officer would 
" mightily desire to take a Prince or a General prisoner." He 
refers her to Grotius and Wilkins; but she is not to rely 
solely on intellectual effort. "There is " (he characteristically 
proceeds) " an inward tasting of truth, which is very much 
** different from a sort of assent which is only extorted by 
"the force of argument... All the reasoning in the world 
" cannot persuade one that is sick to relish meat ; a little 
"health, without any further dispute, does it effectually." 
To the retort, that the sick cannot give themselves health, 
he responds, they can put themselves in the way of it Men 
can cultivate kindness, and a steady mood of composed 
reflection. Aided by prayer, and a resolute withdrawal from 
temptation, these are good preparatives for the search after 
truth. Religion, like all arts, demands a strict apprentice- 

On Popery he is severe. It is but " a modest sort of 
"Atheism" in those whose understanding is awakened to 
a true sense of what God and religion must be ; " for if 


i8o His friendship for Mrs IVharton [ch. v 

" religion is turned to a pageantry, it is only an engine for 
"children and fools — I will not add women." 

As the correspondence proceeds, other topics intervene. 
The poetical effusions of his fair correspondent (which 
extorted Waller's praise) arouse Burnet s enthusiasm ; but 
he makes bold to recommend the " labor limae." In return 
he forwards metrical compositions of his own ; panegyrics 
on the lady, and a very complicated piece (in Cowley's 
worst vein), wherein the pure attraction Mrs Wharton 
exerts upon him is compared to magnetic force. He asks for 
criticism ; but like most recruits to the ranks of the '' genus 
irritable " is not quite pleased when he gets it. Burnet, in 
fact, despite his admiration for Ben Jonson, Milton, 
Beaumont and Fletcher, Tasso, and his dictum that no 
poetry but the best is bearable, proved a shockingly 
bad poetaster. 

An ecstatic admiration tinges his relations with the 
lady ; but censure is not spared. On an unfounded report 
that Mrs Wharton (the unhappy wife of a notorious libertine) 
contemplated a separation from her husband, his strictures 
are stem : " I look on all such things as both the wickedest 
*' and the maddest things possible." Save where life is en- 
dangered, ''which I am sure is not in your case," such a step 
" is a throwing off the cross [God] lays on us, and a preferring 
" our foolish inclinations and rash heats to his wise appoint- 
"ments; after which we have no reason to expect... his 
"protection.. ..Self-interest. ..makes me...add one considera- 
" tion more ; which is, that if ever you suffered those 
"impatient resolutions to prevail with you, I could never 
" after that allow myself the liberty of waiting on you." 

But when reassured, his Platonic passion overflows. 
" For about eighteen years, I have made it a constant part 
"of my prayers that God would... put a speedy end to this 
" vain and foolish life. . . . But now for some months I have 
"added a condition" that I would live "as long as I can 
"be of any use to you.... This is the greatest compliment 
" I ever gave to mortal, vastly greater than to say I would 
''die for them, for, as I am made, that is none at all.... 
" I shall, while I live and when I die, carry with me a part 
"of a friendship for you, which*. .could be very little 
" believed by those who cannot understand what the force 

i682] Prince Borghese invites him to Rome i8i 

'* of that pure and elevated temper is, which, as it makes me 
** rejoice in your life and friendship above all the things of 
" this world, so makes me think of you as dying, or perhaps 
"dead, with that... serenity which shews that I love that 
"part of you that shall never die." 

Elsewhere, alluding to a sharp attack of fever ^which 
he ascribes, in part, to sympathy for her troubles), he 
reiterates his longing for death, and characteristically 
speculates on the possible effects of his "last words and 
"sense of religion" upon his correspondents mind. In 
the postscript, however, our volatile friend is sufficiently 
mundane to express an ingenuous delight at a visit from 
Prince Borghese — " the greatest man in Rome next to the 
" Pope.... As travellers do often hear of the slightest things 
**of the countries through which they pass so some unlucky 
"body told him somewhat of me ; and yesterday he found 
"me out in my retirement... and finding that I love their 
" Italian books, he said he would presendy write to Rome 
" for all that was curious in their language and present me 
" with it ; and he having heard that I talked of going to 
" Rome some Long Vacation, offered me lodgings in his 
'^ palace, and the use of his coach and servants. It perhaps 
''raised his idea of me" (writes Burnet with childlike 
candour) " that while he was with me," Duke Hamilton 
came in. 

Meanwhile, with the exception of the famous sketch 
of the devout Chief Justice Hale, for which materials were 
supplied by the pious care of a dependant, and which 
appeared early in 1682, Burnet's literary avocations centred 
round affairs in France. As to these he possessed peculiar 
sources of information. His friend Mr Fall, recendy ap- 
pointed historiographer for Scotland, was still domiciled 
in Paris ; and they maintained an active correspondence on 
the surprising deadlock there reached. For that very 
Erastian monarch Louis XIV, while annihilating the 
franchises of the Huguenot sectaries, was at daggers drawn 
with the head of his own communion on the question 
of the *' Regale^' or alleged Royal right to the tem- 
poralities of vacant sees. Burnet was naturally drawn 
to a crisis which recalled so remarkably the genesis 
of the English Reformation; and in Hilary Term, 168 1-2, 

1 82 The History of the Rights of Princes [ch. v 

he published, with documentary appendices, a History of 
the Rights of Princes in the disposing of ecclesiastical 
benefices and Church lands. 

In this work (which he afterwards supplemented) the 
Erastian Burnet of course decides for the King. His 
almost fulsome laudation of Louis XIV must however excite 
surprise. The reduction of French predominance in Europe, 
then at its height, was an opposition cry ; and at Court 
Halifax resented, with patriotic bitterness, the insolent 
continental ascendancy of "le Roi Soleil." We can but 
suppose that Burnet, anticipating a French edition, hoped 
to further, by his effusive encouragement, the revolt from 
Rome ; while exciting, through pathetic allusions, commis- 
eration for Huguenot suffering. Such courtly panegyrics, 
however, were to be often thrown in his teeth during the 
anti-Gallican fever which* marked his later years. 

But if Burnet decidedly favoured the Royal pretensions 
he was just towards the King s opponents. The onus of the 
dispute is thrown on the incendiaries behind the King — 
the Jesuit order; the Pope and his Jansenist allies being 
treated with appreciative respect 

As usual, his inaccuracy of detail provoked the on- 
slaught of precise scholars ; while the Erastian tenets of 
the book, and its strictures on the clergy, involved him 
in a long polemic correspondence with the learned Comber, 
author of a defence of Tithes. It was eventually termi- 
nated by the good offices of Tillotson ; and the only 
portion biographically interesting is a letter of Burnet's 
dated 14 March, 1682-3. This, while throwing the 
fullest light on his own ecclesiastical views, defends 
the purity of his motives. He repudiates, with natural 
indignation, '' imputations of baseness or disingenuity, 
"or that [from a sense of resentment] I am endeavouring 
" to undermine a Church while I live in her communion. . . . 
"I... have [indeed] served in it these nine years without 
" getting one farthmg of its revenue or advantages of any 
"sort." But it is not that he wants for patronage; "the 
" many great offers that have been made me both in this city 
"and in the country, of which some are very fresh," had 
been deliberately refused by him. As to anger : "I have 
" had not long ago an occasion public enough to show how 

1682-3] His Opinion as to Tithes 183 

" little the resentments for a course of many years' injuries 
''wrought on me." His episcopal loyalty is untarnished. 
"In my preface to this last guilty book I assert the divine 
** right of episcopacy so positively that I have... given no 
** cause. conclude I have changed my mind." — ** And 
"why," adds Burnet, "you should think I envy the wealth 
" of the Clergy, or wish to see them stript of it, I cannot 
"imagine"; since on the most conspicuous occasions of 
his life he has pleaded for parochial endowments more 
adequate to their object 

On the other hand Burnet firmly repudiates Comber's 
teaching as to a "divine right" of tithes under the Christian 

"There are," he says, "some things which a very little 
'' consideration discovers so plainly that all that can be said 
" against them can not change a man's thoughts concerning 
"them, so that whole volumes writ for transubstantiation 
" or absolute reprobation, though they were such that 
" I could not answer them, yet would never change my 
"opinion a jot." Among these topics he ranks the "divine 
right" of the clergy to a public tithe. Their legal right 
is of course another thing. And if we turn from theocratic 
and legal to moral obligation, neither Burnet's practice, nor 
his advice to others, are, he thanks God, bounded by 
a "single" or even a "double" tithing. 

He declines moreover to retract the censures on the 
actual corruptions of the clergy, which had brought him, as 
they were to bring him in future, into clerical disrepute. 
The declension of the pastoral ideal is, he says, " the chief 
" prejudice under which good but weak minds labour, and 
"is the only sure ground on which all malicious enemies 
"to God and His Church can build. And when I see how 
" roundly many abuses are laid open and universally con- 
"demned in the Gallican Church which are so cherished 
" here by many, that if a man but names them he draws 
" a nest of wasps about his ears, I cannot but look on this 
**as a worse symptom of our condition than many others 
'* that are more visible and affrighting. And in this matter 
" I am sure I have the best writers in many of the ages of 
" the Church on my side. When the Pastoral Care is so 
" universally neglected in its chief instances those that are 

1 84 He defends the Huguenots [ch.v 

"truly concerned in the preservation and welfare of the 
" Church ought to be forgiven if this raises ia them a deep 
''and just indignation even though that might on some 
''occasions carry them a little too far." 

Nor will Burnet modify his view that the selection of 
Bishops and the assignment of the Bishops and parochial 
clergy to specific spheres of influence was originally in lay 
hands. " I cannot," he says, " comprehend how those who 
" pretend to justify this church in everything can condemn 
"[this] and assert the right to be in the clergy. Since it is 
" certain that the clergy does not elect in England and 
"that the popular elections continue. For as the popular 
" elections continued when they were contracted from the 
" rabble to the common councils in the cities so they still 
"continue being vested in the crown. The prerogative 
" being in things of that kind nothing but an aggregate of 
" the rights of the people centred in the crown ; so that if 
" the people had not the right, the King has it not" This 
is practically the argument of Tindal's eighteenth century 
" Rights " shorn of its offensive implications ; and fore- 
shadows the " Low Church " controversies of Burnet's 
later life. 

To the question at issue between the Huguenots and 
the " Most Christian King," he returned in a later pro- 
duction. The pressure applied to those of "the Religion," 
though still mainly of the moral order, was daily becoming 
more severe. Early in 1683 Burnet published, with able 
and very temperate comments, a translation of the 
"Letter writ by the... Assembly General of the Clergy 
"of France to the Protestants, inviting them to return 
" to their Communion." Concerning this tract he writes, in 
the letter to Fall, dated 15 February [1682-3] and already 
quoted, " As for the good reception of my book which 
" you set out as if you designed to try if it were possible 
" to swell me, I assure you sul you say and all you expect 
" with relation to it has no other effect on me but to make 
" me bless God that assisted me to do that small service 
" to His truth, and I feel not so much as a tentation to 
"those thoughts which you so kindly guard me against, 
"and indeed the book I answered was so trifling and 
'* pitifully weak that if it had not been for the greatness 

1682-3] The Tory Reaction 185 

" of the authority from whence it came I should not have 
*' thought it worthy the little time I bestowed on it, which 
" was only the mornings of two weeks that I spent in 
" some visits in the country, before the rest of the company 
"where I was, met together; only I left blanks for those 
" places which were to be filled up with quotations. I shall 
** not be ill pleased to hear how Mr Claude " (the famous 
pastor) **is satisfied with it.... Tell me if the French Ministers 
*' do not think I am too cold in the justification of the Synod 
"of Dort" He inquires as to the propriety of presenting 
translations both of this work, and of the Reformation^ to 
the leaders of French public opinion, social and religious ; 
in preparation for a visit to Paris, which he was in hopes 
of paying in the course of some Long Vacation. 

But we must now turn from these academic con- 
troversies to the public affairs, with which they were 
contemporaneous. For tragic events were looming, which 
Burnet little foreboded. And yet the political outlook of 
the winter 1682-3 was singularly inauspicious, not only to the 
** Whigs " and their allies, but to all men of statesman- 
like intuition. Despite the efforts of Halifax, the Court, or 
'* Tory " interest (now predominant), had not shown 
modesty in triumph. The almost immediate arrest of 
Lord Shaftesbury, on a charge of high treason, had been 
only nullified by the "ignoramus" of a sympathetic grand 
jury ; acting on which hint the "Court" party, by a series of 
skilful, if unscrupulous manoeuvres, had secured during the 
year 168 1-2 complete control over the jury system in the 
metropolis. Meanwhile the electoral body, in the great 
majority of urban constituencies, was being gradually 
reduced to complete dependence on the Court ; and the 
franchises of that great " Whig " stronghold, the City of 
London, were seriously menaced. The prosecution of 
dissenters revived. " You may think what we are growing 
"to" (wrote Burnet to Fall, February 15, 1682-3) "when 
" I have been told that my preaching of gentleness to such 
"as differ from us in opinions... has been considered as a 
" favouring Nonconformists ; and a message was sent me to 
" do so no more ; but as long as I have a mouth to preach 
" the Gospel I will never be silent in that which I look on 
" as one of the main duties of it Things are carrying very 

1 86 The Whig Conspiracy [ch. v 

** high both here and in Scotland ; the tendencies of that 
" are very visible ; but hot and fierce Churchmen will 
" neither grow wise nor moderate." 

Warned by these sinister premonitions Shaftesbury, in 
November, 1682, had fled the country ; greatly to the relief 
(as Lord Essex told Burnet) of his political associates. 
" Fear, anger, and disappointment had wrought much on 
'' him. ..his notions were wild and impracticable.. .he had 
*' done them already a great deal of mischief and would 
" have done more if he had stayed." In truth, as Burnet 
was to discover, Shaftesbury (who barely survived his 
voluntary exile) had been forcing on his reluctant associates 
the policy of immediate revolt. 

In Scotland meanwhile, under the Government's heavy 
hand, the position of conscientious Presbyterians had 
become almost intolerable ; and Burnet's brother, a 
physician, who had retained the principles of his mother, 
was compelled to take refuge in England. Plans were in 
the air for wholesale emigration to Carolina ; and in April, 
1683, several prominent Scots, including Burnet's cousin, 
Baillie of Jerviswood, came south on this pretext Burnet, 
interested in the project, at once called on Baillie, and 
recommended discretion. After some weeks, however, 
Burnet's suspicions were aroused. His brother admitted 
that he had, while in Scotland, heard hints of "somewhat 
" in agitation " ; and Burnet noticed with some dismay that 
his countrymen, while avoiding himself, were assiduous in 
intercourse with Russell. Mindful of the ruinous risings 
which had ushered in the reign of Queen Mary, he began 
to apprehend plans for disputing, on a demise of the crown, 
the Duke's succession. Essex had gone into the country ; 
but Burnet hastened to wait on him and impart his fears. 

Essex (in Burnet's language) "diverted" him from all 
his apprehensions. His lordship, indeed, having admitted 
that he considered " the obligation between Prince and 
" subject... so equally mutual, that upon a breach on the one 
" side the other was free," proceeded to stigmatise the aims 
and methods of the Government as already constitutive of 
such a breach. He seemed, however, to endorse, under the 
circumstances, Burnet's view as to the futility of revolt ; 
and assured Burnet (as the latter tells us) " I might depend 

i683] Burnefs Memoirs begun 187 

** on it, Lord Russell would be in nothing without 
" acquainting " Essex. 

By these assurances, Burnet's fears were lulled. It 
does not seem to have struck him that he was the last 
man in whom conspirators would confide. His " non- 
" resistance " principles were well-known ; his character for 
loquacity was established ; and he had carefully advertised 
his views on patriotic delation. " I had plainly told... my 
"opinion. ..that... I did not think it lawful to conceal any- 
" thing that might be told me of [unlawful] councils." As 
a matter of fact treasonable consultations had been recently 
resumed. At these Essex and Russell, Sydney and 
Monmouth, Howard the city leader, and others had been 
present ; and though such consultations never passed the 
embryonic stage, and Russell's influence was from first to 
last entirely on the side of patience, Essex and Sydney at 
least were eager for speedy action. 

Burnet, however, accepted Essex's disclaimer; and 
returned, with a mind at ease, to his literary labours, which 
had reached a very interesting period. He was now in 
his fortieth year ; and to the spring of 1683 we assign the 
inception of the "Memoirs" or "Secret History," subse- 
quently transformed into The History of my oivn Time. 

The proximate motive is unknown ; for the exordium 
and opening pages, as well as the portion treating of the 
years 1665-83, have unfortunately disappeared. Perhaps 
his fellow-countryman, Mr Brisbane, impressed by Burnet's 
fund of reminiscence, suggested the project, to which he 
was certainly privy. In any case Burnet seemed designed 
for a writer of Memoirs. A fluent pen, and a capacious 
memory, cannot be denied him ; while from his youth up he 
had shown a keen interest in public matters, and dwelt in 
at least the outer courts of the political temple. We may 
compare him with the well-informed journalist of to-day, 
alert, intelligent, alive to every rumour of the lobbies and 
the clubs; admitted to the semi-confidence of responsible 
politicians. As a newsmonger, indeed, Burnet stands un- 
rivalled. He combined, in the highest degree, that 
inappeasable thirst for information, and that complete 
absence of inconvenient delicacy, so characteristic of " our 
" special correspondent." It is even possible to regard him 

1 88 The ''Protestant Plot'' [ch.v 

as the father of the modern "interview." ** Burnet" (says 
Cockbum) '' was curious and inquisitive, and had...the 
" opportunity of conversing with all sorts of persons... from 
" the throne downwards. He never heard of any person 
" of note, whether at home or abroad, whom he did not 
" take some opportunity of visiting ; and if they were not 
" of themselves ready to declare what they knew, he en- 
" deavoured to draw them into it by his curious questions." 
As a purveyor of anecdote, such a man is in his element ; 
while the breadth of Burnet's interests, and the extent of 
his general information, were additional qualifications for the 
task he now essayed. 

Events preceding the Restoration were probably sum- 
marized during the spring of 1683 ; and the work seems to 
have been in full swing, when a cloud, apparently insig- 
nificant, arose on the political horizon. 

It was on June 12 that a tradesman named Keeling 
revealed a plot to raise the City and murder the King at 
** Rye House." It had originated in the Green Ribbon 
Club, the focus of Whig agitation in the City of London. 

The trade of political perjurer had become so common 
that little attention was paid. Keeling however soon pro- 
duced corroborative evidence ; arrests were made in the City ; 
and rumours of a ** Protestant Plot" became widely current. 

The anxiety of Burnet may be imagined ; what he 
believed is less clear, though at this point his original 
memoirs become again available. Probably his opinion 
wavered in accordance with the reports. On June 21, for 
instance, **some [courtiers]," he says, ''came to me and 
"assured me there was a reality in it... Mr Brisbane told 
** me the evidence was clear and undeniable." 

Next day, however, Lord Howard called on Burnet. 
Though of disreputable antecedents, and known as politi- 
cally extreme, he was yet externally plausible ; and Burnet 
had already found him a difficult man to avoid. He 
inveighed against the malice of the Duke of York ; and 
sneered at the evidence, as fit for a packed jury. But the 
tone of Burnet's court friends had left its impression ; and 
he warned Howard that the charge, if justified, would ruin 
the Protestant cause. Howard hereupon, with the most 
solemn asseverations, disavowed all belief in the plot ; and 

1683] Bumefs attitude 189 

Burnet, by consequence, ** believed there was no truth in... 
'* these discoveries." 

Meanwhile Keeling and other " King's evidence " had 
flown at higher game ; implicating, at second hand, in the 
more general scheme of a rising, the Duke of Monmouth 
and Lord Russell. Monmouth fled ; Russell, who declined 
to do so, was committed (June 26) to the Tower. Others 
soon followed ; Jerviswood and Essex among them. 

These events threw into relief RusselFs hold upon the 
party. For this modest gentleman, whose last thought was 
for himself, called forth the passionate devotion which more 
brilliant qualifications command. One gallant friend would 
have replaced Russell in prison, or cut him out from his 
guard at the very foot of the scaflbld. Essex (not alone) 
refused to abscond, lest his flight should compromise 
Russell ; Monmouth offered to " come in " and ** run 
"fortunes" with his friend. 

To Burnet the falsity of the charges against the English 
grandees seemed at first self-evident. *' As soon as Russell 
'* was put in the Tower " (he says) " I went to his lady, and 
'* offered my service to her ; for as I loved her lord much, 
'' so I was particularly obliged by him." It was thus that 
Burnet first entered into direct relation with this noble 
woman, in whom " the vivacity of the French temper, and 
" the solidity of the English" had ** produced a very rare 
'* mixture." He shared the counsels of Russell's friends ; 
and promised evidence to character for the forthcoming 

The innocence of the Scottish gentlemen, meanwhile, 
seemed to Burnet far more dubious. He sent, indeed, to 
the prison where his cousin Jerviswood lay, and assumed 
responsibility for all comforts supplied ; "in which some," 
he says, ** thought I was too bold." But he refused to 
'* stand by" Baillie on his trial; alleging the professional 
decorum which he was about to waive for Russell. 

The authors of the *' Rye House" or '* Murder" plot 
were duly tried and condemned. But for days the evidence 
against the "grandees" appeared extremely slender. 
Suddenly Howard was arrested ; and at once turned 
traitor. It was under these circumstances that, on the 
13th of July, "William Russell, commonly called Lord 

igo Lord Russell's Trial [ch. v 

'* Russell," appeared at the bar of the Old Bailey ; and 
that Burnet for the first time since the arrest, saw the 
face of his friend. 

It was probably little changed. Fearless by temper and 
principle, Lord Russell faced with unaffected indifference 
an issue which to him seemed certain. His wife, with a 
courage yet greater than his own, sat by the bar, in the 
capacity of her husband's amanuensis. 

The trial itself is more dramatic than the evidence ; 
which last proved singularly meagre. It was sworn, 
indeed (on testimony technically insufficient), that Russell 
had attended treasonable consultations during the years 
1682-3. But no witness could recall language expressive 
of treasonable consent. Upon this Burnet, in his Memoirs, 
strongly insists. A man, he argues, cannot be held account- 
able for all that passes in his presence ; and he urges with 
considerable force his own notorious inadvertence. " I have 
" been often myself so engaged in the pursuit of one thought 
**that has been started, that for some time I have not 
** known what was said about me ; though I have seemed 
** to make general answers of smiles and half words ; and 
*' silent men, such as Russell was, are more apt to run in to 
"such though tfulness." The plea in Russell's case is 
certainly just ; and it was even supposed that matters 
tended to an acquittal, when a tragic episode sealed the 
prisoner's fate. 

In his opening speech the Attorney-General had made 
ominous reference to Lord Essex. As Lord Howard, in the 
capacity of Kings evidence, took his place in the witness 
box, a dread whisper crept into court, and reached even the 
witness. His effrontery was not altogether proof to the 
shame of his situation and the prisoner's undisguised con- 
tempt ; and at this last awful touch he faltered where he 
stood. Lord Essex, an hour before, had committed suicide 
in the Tower. 

All hope was at an end. In vain did Burnet, with 
others, attest Howard's tergiversation, and Russell's reiter- 
ated endorsement of constitutional methods ; that one of 
the accused had " prevented the hand of justice " excited 
(even in Burnet himself) an instant irresistible presumption 
against the innocence of the other. Russell was found 

1 683] Bumefs letter to Brisbane 191 

guilty at four o'clock that evening ; and on the following 
morning, with the same unbroken calm, received sentence 
of death, in the hideous formula of the time. 

What effect had this sudden catastrophe on the 
mind of Burnet himself? One absolutely shattering; as 
is proved by the following very abject letter, directed, on 
the morning after Russell's sentence to Burnet's Court 
friend, Mr Brisbane. 

'* Dear Sir, 

*' I have writ the enclosed paper with as much 
" order as the confusion I am under can allow. I leave it 
** to you to shew it to my lord Halifax, or the King, as 
" you think fit ; only I beg you will do it as soon as may 
"be, that in case my lord Russell sends for me, the King 
" may not be provoked against me by that. So, Dear Sir, 


Memorandum for Mr Brisbane, 

** To let my Lord Privy Seal [Lord Halifax] 
** know that out of respect to him, I do not come to him. 
** That I looked on it as a great favour, that when so 
" many houses were searched, mine was not, in which 
" though nothing could have been found, yet it would have 
" marked me as a suspected person. That I never was in 
" my whole life under so terrible a surprise and so deep a 
" melancholy as the dismal things these last two or three 
" days has brought forth spreads over my mind ; for God 
" knows I never so much as suspected any such thing ; all 
" I feared was only some rising if the king should happen 
" to die ; and that I only collected out of the obvious things 
** that everybody sees as well as I do, and to prevent that 
" took more pains than perhaps any man in England did, 
" in particular with my unfortunate friends, to let them see 
" that nothing brought in Popery so fast in Queen Mary's 
" days as the business of Lady Jane Grey, which gave it a 
"greater advance in the first month of that reign than 
'* otherwise it is likely it would have made during her whole 
" life. So that I had not the least suspicion of this matter ; 
"yet if my lord Russell calls for my attendance now, I 

192- Bumefs letter to Brisbane [ch. v 

" cannot decline it, but shall do my duty with that fidelity 
" as if any Privy Councillor were to overhear all that shall 
" pass between us. 

" I am upon this occasion positively resolved never to 
" have anything to do more with men of business, particularly 
"with any in opposition to the Court, but will divide the 
** rest of my life between my function and a very few friends, 
"and my laboratory ; and upon this I pass my word and 
" faith to you, and that being given under my hand to you, 
" I do not doubt but you will make the like engagements 
" in my name to the king ; and I hope my lord Privy Seal 
" will take occasion to do the like, for I think he will believe 
" me. I ask nor expect nothing but only to stand clear in 
" the king's thoughts. For preferment, I am resolved 
" against it though I could obtain it ; but I beg not to be 
" more under hard thoughts ; especially since in all this 
"discovery there has not been so much occasion to name 
" me as to give a rise for a search ; and the friendship I had 
"with these two, and their confidence in me in all other 
" things, may shew that they knew I was not to be spoke 
" to in anything against my duty to the king. I do beg of 
" you that no discourse may be made of this, for it would 
" look like a sneaking for somewhat ; and you in particular 
" know how far it is from my heart ; therefore I need not 
" beg of you, nor of my lord Halifax, to judge aright of this 
" message ; but if you can make the king think well of it, 
" and say nothing of it, it will be the greatest kindness you 
"can possibly do me. I would have done this sooner, but 
"it might have looked like fear or guilt; so I forebore 
"hitherto, but now I thought it fit to do it. I choose 
" rather to write it than say it, both that you might have it 
" under my hand, that you may see how sincere I am in it, 
" as also because I am now so overcharged with melancholy 
" that I can scarce endure any company, and for two nights 
" have not been able to sleep an hour. One thing you may, 
"as you think fit, tell the king, that though I am too in- 
"considerable to think I can ever serve him while I am 
" alive, yet I hope I shall be able to do it to some purpose 
"after I am dead; this you understand and I will do it 
** with zeal. So my dear friend, pity your poor melancholy 
" friend, who was never in his whole life under so deep an 

i683] Its significance considered 193 

" affliction ; for I think I shall never enjoy myself after it ; 
" and God knows death would be now very welcome to me, 
" Do not come near me for some time, for I cannot bear 
** any company ; only I go oft to my Lady Essex and weep 
"with her; and, indeed, the king's carriage to her" [in restor- 
ing her husband's estate] ** has been so great and worthy 
" that it can never be too much admired ; and I am sure, if 
•' ever I live to finish what you know I am about, it and all 
'' the other good things I can think of shall not want all the 
"light I can give them\ Adieu my dear friend and keep 
"this as a witness against me if ever I fail in the per* 
" formance of it I am, you know, with all the zeal and 
"fidelity possible, 

" Your most faithful and most humble servant, 

"G. Burnet." 

Sunday morning, 
17/A [15M] July, 1683. 

This grovelling appeal (unearthed by Mark Napier 
near a century and a half later) is not one on which the 
candid biographer of Burnet can dwell with any com- 
placency. Supplications such as these are unmanly, what- 
ever the crisis ; and there is something peculiarly repellent 
in the bribe which the historian offers to the Royal vanity. 
But we cannot, like Napier and other hostile critics, sever it 
from its immediate context ; or read Burnet's whole career 
by the light of one distracted epistle. We can allow for the 
shock innicted upon an excitable nature by the awful scenes 
of the week. He had seen one friend precipitate himself, by 
his own act, to what Burnet thought irrevocable perdition ; 
another doomed to the fate which, above others, appals 
humanity — a public ignominious death. Nor were they to 
him, at this moment, the victims of unmerited persecution. 
Essex by his rash deed had convinced Burnet, that both 
were guilty of a crime of which he had previously absolved 
them ; and of which the shame and penalty might recoil 
upon himself. The result was a moral collapse which 
recalls the collapse of Warriston. 

But the mood was as transient as overwhelming. The 
summons so pusillanimously dreaded forthwith came ; on 

^ This generosity is mentioned in the Memoirs, but not in the final History, 
B. 13 

194 Tf^^ revulsion [ch.v 

the following afternoon, within the walls of Newgate Gaol, 
Burnet stood face to face with Russell, in the condemned 
man's cell. An interview of some hours ensued. 

Its effect upon Burnet was magical. The serene equa- 
nimity of Russell braced the quivering nerves of his friend ; 
and Burnet eagerly accepted Lord Russell's asseverations, 
that he was morally guiltless of the charge for which he 
was about to die. As unhesitatingly he absorbed Lord 
Russell's belief that remorse on Russdl's account had alone 
driven Essex to despair. Here Russell was wrong ; for 
though Essex had certainly forced upon Russell me ill- 
omened comradeship of Howard, the complicity of Essex 
in schemes of revolt is clear. 

Three days later Burnet wrote to Sir Edward Harley 
in a very altered strain. 

" I hope you will forgive a very short letter now, for 
*' my attendance on my lord Russell, as it takes up the 
" greatest part of my time, so it fills all my thoughts. I 
" shall only say this of him, that in my whole life I never 
" saw so much of the worthiness of a brave man, and of the 
" greatness of an excellent Christian met together, as are 
" m him. He will die clearing himself of all those crimes 
" for which he is condemned ; except only the concealment 
'^of some treasonable propositions which he opposed to 
" that degree that they were laid aside." 

Lord Russell's self-exoneration moreover had excited in 
Burnet some hopes of inducing him to recant the formal 
doctrine of resistance. This might lead to a pardon ; and 
must certainly exculpate Burnet in the eyes of the Court. 
Even after the first interview, self-deceived by his wishes, 
he had hurried to Tillotson, and assuring him " that he had 
" now brought my lord Russell to be sensible of the unlaw- 
** fulness of resistance. ..desired him" (adds Lord Halifax, 
our informant) " to acquaint me with it, that I might 
*' tell it to the King, as that which might in some degree 
** soften him towards my lord.... I took the first opportunity 
*' of acquainting the king with it, and improved it the best 
'* I could." Three days later, however, when Tillotson 
congratulated Russell on his change of opinion, " my lord 
" said that Dr Burnet was under a mistake, for that he had 
" only said that he was willing to be convinced.... Upon this 

i683] Burnet, Russell^ and Non-resistance 195 

" Dr Tillotson expostulateth with Dr Burnet for mis- 
" informing him...,Dr Burnet confesseth that he said it 
*' positively to Dr Tillotson, though my lord only. ..gave 
" him hopes ;...but he took it in the largest sense because 
" he believed it might do him a good office to the king.'* 
Tillotson felt the full awkwardness of the situation; and 
both he and Burnet (to quote the earlier and more in- 
genuous language of the latter) strove to convince Russell 
" of the unlawfulness of taking arms against the King," not 
only " in the condition we were then in" but ''in any case'* 

Russell however was not shaken. Never a ready speaker, 
he was preparing, in place of the usual " dying speech," a 
paper for publication. He had consulted Burnet on the 
order of topics ; and had even adopted his suggestion of 
clearing the " Country " leaders from the charge of 
suborning Oates. He also, on Burnet's urgency, deleted 
'* with a smile" some lines on the dangers o( slavery which 
Burnet thought ill-timed. Finally, on the day before that 
on which he was to suffer, he shewed the divines a passage 
which he proposed to insert for their justification. 

This reiterated his own opinion "that a free nation like 
" this might defend their religion and liberties when in- 
*' vaded... though under... colour of law" ; but admitted that 
** some... eminent divines.. .whom I. ..esteem to a very great 
** degree " had offered weighty reasons for regarding ** faith 
" and patience " as the only "proper ways for the preserva- 
" tion of religion." 

Tillotson thought this so insufficient, that he renewed 
the charge, in a paper which he submitted to Russell the 
same afternoon. Therein he argued that the resistance of 
constituted authority is contrary to social morality ; and is 
offensive alike to the Christian creed in general and the 
Protestant faith in particular — to the laws which establish 
the Church in England, and to the recent Militia Act 
Tillotson describes Russell's position as a "great and 
" dangerous mistake" ; imperilling his "eternal happiness" 
and necessitating a special and public repentance. 

Russell, after receiving the paper, retired to consider it 
On his return, he confessed himself unconvinced, but hoped 
God would pardon him, if in error. Tillotson then urged 
Burnet to a final effort ; failing which, the paragraph should 


196 The death of Russell [ch. v 

be suppressed as worse than useless. Burnet's endeavours 
failed ; and the passage was accordingly cancelled 

Meanwhile that same day Burnet addressed to Russell 
two discourses, which were published for the first time 
thirty years later. The first (on divine assistance in the 
hour of death) is not remarkable. But the second, on the 
Beatific Vision, contains passages of great beauty, in 
which the issues of birth and death, with their attendant 
pangs, are forcibly compared ; and the spiritual splendours 
of a diviner life are finely imagined. 

That night took place the silent parting between 
Russell and his wife, which Burnet, with artless pathos, has 
rendered immortal. The following morning, on a scaffold 
raised in Lincoln's Inn Fields, Lord Russell, with unflinching 
composure, knelt at the block. Burnet and Tillotson saw 
the tragedy to its close ; and Burnet received Lord Russell's 
last message for his wife and father. 

Within an hour, by Lady Russell's efforts, copies of 
her husband's paper were selling in the streets. It created 
intense excitement ; and many ascribed it to Burnet's ready 
pen. Meanwhile Burnet himself was recording for Lady 
Kussell's benefit a journal of the preceding five days. I n 
these few pages, written under the immediate stress of 
ennobling emotion, Burnet, for the only time in his life^ 
attains to narrative beauty. Homely, almost bald in their 
pathetic simplicity, they paint, with a touch as of genius, 
the man they portray. The quiet English gentleman, 
raised above himself by the crisis so unswervingly faced, 
and tranquil in the conviction that his death must ** serve 
"his country," rises before us almost as vividly as the 
Socrates of the Phado. 

While Burnet, on the following day, finished this 
journal, he and Tillotson were called before the Council to 
be examined upon Russell's paper. Tillotson's interroga- 
tion was short ; for in his own exculpation, he had already 
laid before Halifax his admonitory letter to Russell. This 
was prompdy published by the authorities; and proved, 
long afterwards, a thorn in the flesh to both divines. 

Burnet, however, was questioned at length. To prove 
Russell's preoccupation with the composition of the dis- 
puted paper, Burnet offered to read the "journal" which 

1683] Its effect on Burnet 197 

he had just completed. ** I saw," says Burnet, " they were 
** all astonished at the many extraordinary things in it" 
The Duke of York, whose animus against Russell was 
personal, resented this perusal of a " studied panegyric " on 
the dead ; the king sat silent. A few more questions and 
Burnet was released from the presence, which he never 
again entered. For Burnet's strangely rapid change of 
attitude had disgusted the King, who definitely set him 
down as the author of the speech and as an unprincipled 
jack-of-both-sides. An order was sent to the Rector 
of St Clements Danes, who in consequence "discharged" 
Burnet of the lectureship ; efforts were made to bring 
Russell's paper, and its supposed author^ within the 
dreaded scope of the Scotch law against "leasing" ; and 
the King, as Burnet tells us, "said once" to Duke Hamil- 
ton's heir **he believed I would be content to be hanged to 
** have the pleasure to make a speech on the scaffold ; but 
" he would order drums" to be beat "so that I should not 
" be heard." Considering the charge under which he 
laboured, Burnet's retort, " when it came to that " he 
"should put" his "speech in such hands that the world 
"should see it if they could not hear it" was not very 
happily imagined. 

Yet more suspicious, in the eyes of the Court, would 
have seemed the handsome honorarium presented by the 
Russell family. It amounted to 150 guineas, which 
appeared to Burnet providential ; since it exactly enabled 
him to wipe out a debt contracted for a kinsman, who had 
failed in business. 

Halifax meanwhile did not desert Burnet. He per- 
suaded him against publishing a self-exculpation, which is 
still extant for the curious ; and Burnet therefore contented 
himself with submitting it to his ecclesiastical superior the 
Bishop of London. The continued patronage of the 
Minister remained no secret ; and Dr Hickes (who had 
been, as we know, Lauderdale's chaplain) ascribed to the 
influence of Burnet and Tillotson the repugnance shewn 
by Halifax for his own promotion. "Hinc" (in after 
years) "multae lacrymae." 

Meanwhile the whole episode left profound traces on 
Burnet He had acted throughout in a spirit of loyalty 
to the Court, and he naturally resented the injustice with 

198 He still preaches passive obedience [ch. v 

which his action had been repaid. Nor was it in human 
nature — especially such impressionable human nature — to 
escape entirely the contagion of principles so steadily 
maintained, under circumstances so awful, by so admired 
a friend. But the effects, if lasting, were slow in operation. 

For Burnet remained still staunch to his "passive 
" obedience " doctrines. A month after Russell's execution 
he inserted in his rapidly progressing Memoirs an elaborate 
excursus. This recapitulates and revises the " non-resist- 
" ance " argument of his early Vindication, and his paper on 
the Scottish Test. His conclusions are unchanged. " If," 
he says, '' I had not seen too much of the injustice and 
" baseness of the world to wonder at anything, I should 
** wonder much to find myself aspersed as a favourer of 
** rebellion ; whereas I think there is no man living whose 
** principles determine him more steadily against it." Yet 
the tone shews a marked alteration ; he is convinced but 
no longer enthusiastic. " If I am able to search anything 
'* to the bottom, I have done it in this matter ; and indeed, 
" my aversion to the ill conduct of affairs, and somewhat of 
" natural heat and carelessness in my temper has given me 
" the bias rather in favour of resistance than against it ; 
'* so that nothing but the force of reason and conscience has 
^^ determined me'' 

Meanwhile certain passages of the Brisbane letter 
attract us to the character of Charles II, which occurs in 
this part of the Memoirs. This sketch is vivid enough, 
and conspicuously just; but the exordium has a sinister 
sound. ''[The] character of the King and duke.../ »f«j/ 
**give. . .at present very imperfect^ otherwise what I write may 
'* happen to be seized on, and I know not what may be made 
" of that ; but I will venture on a good deal now^ and if ever 
^^ I outlive them I will say the rest then, when it will be more 
*^ safer This is an unpleasant variant on the promises of 
the Brisbane letter. But our disgust deepens — perhaps 
to an exaggerated degree — when we turn to the posthumous 
portrait, which will be discussed later on. 

Meanwhile, as Burnet had foreboded, the '* Protestant 
''Plot" had completed the discomfiture of the "Whigs." 
Burnet himself, as Russell's supposed abettor, was a target 
for the Tory press ; and he thought it the moment to 
effect a long-standing project " I cannot," he wrote to 

i683] He visits France 199 

Sir Edward Harley, on August 18, ''write- any long letter 
"being to go... for a few weeks over into France (having 
"obtained a pass for it).... I intend to come back, if it 
"please God, by the beginning of the Michaelmas term, 
"and then I shall give you a more particular account of 
" the state of the Protestants of France." 

After an evening spent with Lady Russell, he left 
London on Monday, August 20, and seems to have reached 
Paris before the end of the month. His welcome was 
flattering in the extreme ; and this on several accounts. 
To the Protestants he was recommended by his contro- 
versial services ; to the Court by the history of the Regale. 
The contests with the Papal See moreover had become 
so acute, that even Papists read eagerly in the pages of 
Burnet's Reformation of the rupture between England and 
Rome. In addition Lady Russell, by birth half French, 
was niece to the Marquis de Ruvigny. A leader in Pro- 
testant circles, his diplomatic services still maintained his 
credit at Court ; " and he," says Burnet, '* studied to have 
"me... visited and known." 

Years later a Scotchman, who had been at this time in 
Paris, gave Wodrow some curious particulars of Bumefs 
reception. Summoned to the Royal Presence he met, it 
was said, the Royal Party returning to Versailles ; the 
King descended to give audience, and took Burnet 
into his coach. A man of learning and politeness was 
appointed his cicerone ; and was horrified to find that 
though he ** spoke the French tongue very ill... his 
"confidence and assurance bore him fully out, and he 
"talked for ever and as much before the King as in his 
"own room." The distressed courtier remonstrated; but 
" Burnet did not amend, and the King bore all." 

The attentions thus lavished on a disgraced man 
exasperated the English Envoy ; but Louis, at the apogee 
of his splendour and his insolence, flouted the displeasure of 
Charles. " Dr Burnet " writes our representative bitterly 
enough to Halifax "is already as busy and as well 
" acquainted here as in England ... I met him at Fontaine- 
"bleau, where he had been some days.... I was surprised... 
" to see him... within two or three persons of [the King].... 
" Upon Thursday and Friday last [he] went to Versailles, 

200 His reception there [ch. v 

"as I believe -by invitation, where he had the greatest 
" reception imaginable ; the King took very great notice of 
" him ; he was presented to the dauphin, caressed by people 
" of quality of both sexes...." The waters played for him 
one of the dauphin's coaches was placed at his disposal 
and all the " appartements and cabinets were open to him.* 
Louis himself had emphasized the fact that no more had 
been done for Prince Borghese ; and never a minister of 
the English King's (adds the aggrieved diplomatist) had 
enjoyed such a reception. The Envoy, who was obsessed 
by fear of intrigues between the French Court and 
English discontent, urged the political aspect of the 
episode ; though it seems to have struck even him that 
some of this effusive civility was for the eyes of the 
Papal nuncio. 

The Envoy's complaints were not, of course, very 
happily directed, and Lord Halifax blandly ignored them. 
The Secretary of State, however, the supple Sunderland, 
duly expressed his master's astonishment. Burnet, since 
the Envoy would not countenance him, declined the formal 
audience offered by Louis ; but he still mingled freely with 
both courtiers and churchmen. Some of tnem impressed 
him very favourably, and they showed themselves in general 
as concerned for his spiritual welfare, as at one with his 
Erastian policy. Even the gentle La Valli^re from her 
austere retirement was induced to summon Burnet to the 
grate of her Convent parlour, and recount the steps of her 
"conversion." With the heads of the Protestant com- 
munity he was of course on intimate terms ; and as 
inevitably shared their alarm at the increasing violation 
of their rights. 

About October ^, he left for England, and spending 
a few days at Rouen, must have reached London in 
November. The pamphleteers had been busy at the ex- 
pense of his private no less than of his public character, 
and had been answered, if not by himself, yet by friends 
writing in his name. He found the Court moreover highly 
offended at his French success ; and the irritation was pro- 
bably increased when (on his trial in December) Algernon 
Sydney summoned Burnet as a witness to Howard's 
character. These events tended more and more to asso- 

1683-4] His return to England 201 

ciate him with the "Whig" element. "Many from the 
"Court," writes Burnet, "came oft to see me, and they 
" all studied to possess me with the apprehensions of the 
"severities that were designed against me. I made one 
" answer to all, that I never troubled myself with the fear 
'' of what false witnesses might swear against me for that 
" was without all bounds, and I was very sure no body could 
" with truth lay anything to my charge ; so I continued 
'' not only in quiet, but with that natural cheerfulness that 
" arose from a good constitution and a clear conscience." 

Indeed, during the winter, he rendered the Court some 
incidental service. On the precarious evidence of two 
children a Whig fanatic proclaimed that Essex had been 
murdered in the Tower. Burnet (characteristically the 
first to inform Lady Essex of the rumours) undertook to 
sift them ; and was soon able to discount them entirely. 
He thus drew on both the wrath of the extreme Whigs ; 
who, as he admitted at the time, saw political capital in 
the story. 

Burnet meanwhile renewed his periodic resolve to 
withdraw, for a time at least, "from the conversation 
"and table of the world." His books were not available ; 
they seem for some reason to have been transferred, in 
packing cases, to Lady Russell's care. But he ruminated 
upon literary projects, involving no original research. " I 
"writ then" (he says) "a large book concerning the truth 
"of religion and the authority of the... scripture, with all 
"the freedom of one that was disengaged from parties 
"and interest" Mystery surrounds this work, which was 
designed for posthumous publication. In his autobiography, 
27 years later, Burnet records, " I have lately read [it] 
^' over, and am of the same opinion I was then as to the 
" main of it. In some particulars I have seen farther than 
" I did then." A codicil to his will directs that the volume 
shall be published. But it never appeared, and the 
manuscript is not forthcoming. 

Burnet also, having (as he puts it) " much leisure " and 
wanting " diversion," executed an anonymous translation 
of More's Utopia. The preface contains an enthusiastic 
tribute to More ; and hints that the more revolutionary 
portions of the work cannot embody his personal convictions. 

202 More and Bedell [ch, v 

It also includes some of the few purely literary dicta which 
Burnet has left. Bacon, though a little ornate for con- 
temporary taste, is still "our best author." Shakespeare 
Burnet ignores ; but Mulgrave's Essay on Poetry (which 
praises him) is truly Augustan ; and the dramatists of the 
last age — Ben Jonson, Beaumont, and Fletcher — overtop 
their successors, whose transports the Rehearsal has curbed. 

A better-known essay is Burnet's Life of Bedell, the 
saintly Bishop of Kilmore. Its history is somewhat 
obscure. About 1675 (at the instigation of his patrons, 
the Harleys) Bedell's son-in-law, Clogie, Vicar of Wigmore, 
had written an account of the Bishop. He seems to have 
been dissatisfied with the result, and four years later, 
hearing that Archbishop Sancroft was to edit Bedell's 
works, had offered the Primate his materials. Did he 
meet with a rebuff? Possibly, for by 1682 we find 
Sancroft in correspondence with Bedell's sons ; while 
Clogie had submitted his own sketch to Burnet He for 
some years declined the project ; being, as he says, appre- 
hensive lest some " might take exceptions to my writing on 
** that argument." He subsequently represented himself as 
overcome by Clogie's importunity, but this was a slip of 
memory ; the renewed overture certainly emanated from 

On November 20, 1683, we find Burnet writing to 
Clogie's friend, Harley. " I remember you told me you 
"had a copy of Mr Clogie's life of Bishop Bedell, and 
"in the leisure that my retirement is like to procure me 
**this winter, I intend to look over that and see what 
" I can make of it, so if you will do me the favour to let 
"me have the sight of that book a few weeks I shall 
" certainly return it to you again, and shall send you with 
" it the form in which I will cast it that it may be communi- 
'* cated to the author." Burnet's first draft was ready by 
January 22, 1684; and anticipating the completion of the 
fair copy, he fears Clogie may consider Burnet has 
"stripped it too much of the ornaments with which" 
Clogie had "clothed it." On April 3 Burnet suspects 
that a delay in the return of the manuscript (dispatched 
six weeks earlier) may foreshadow Clocfie's discontent; 
"If this is the truth, pray tell him that he may be very 

1683-4] Death of Leighton 203 

"free with me, for I will not take it amiss from him 
"nor will I stir one step but with his approbation." 

These extracts justify Burnet's subsequent contention, 
that he was merely answerable for the form of this 
anonymous biography and not for its contents. Unfor- 
tunately however Mr Clogie, though earnest and exemplary, 
had little historical apparatus. His manuscript teemed with 
blunders, which Burnet's own knowledge should have 
enabled him to detect ; but which, at a distance from 
his books, he reproduced with uncritical fidelity. The 
work therefore, though agreeably written, and frequently 
reprinted, cannot rank with successful biographies ; 
and excited an even unusual amount of the ''odium 

The preface includes a tribute to the exemplary prelates 
of all the ages. Scougal, who had just died, ranks among 
Scotch examples ; and we suspect a covert exculpatory 
allusion to the episode of 1666. Another name, suppressed 
in the original lest a sensitive modesty should suffer, was 
replaced marginally, when such motives lost their force* 
While the work was in the press, Leighton died. 

From his Sussex retirement he had maintained with 
Burnet a kindly familiar correspondence. His alienation 
from Rome had increased ; his growing sense of the practical 
abuses undermining the Church of his adoption and which 
he regarded as essentially the best, fired Burnet's zeal for 
reform. In the summer of 1684, at Burnet's request, 
Leighton came to town on an errand of pious reproof. 
All admired the vitality of a man who had passed his 
seventieth year ; but to Burnet's compliments Leighton 
made response, that the end was at hand. Within twelve 
hours he experienced a chill ; but assisted by Mr Fall, then 
in London, acquitted himself of his errand. Next day he 
sank into a lethargy ; and on June 28, 1684, in the presence 
of Burnet and at the Bell Inn, Warwick Lane, he peacefully 

Few episodes are more touching than the passionate 
devotion paid by Burnet to the memory of Leighton* 
Appreciating as he did intercourse with the persons of the 
world-drama — familiar as he was with the salient men of 
the day — one lowly figure despised in life, almost ignored in 

204 The Bedell falsification [ch. v 

death, retained his supreme reverence. And as he strode, a 
bespattered pilgrim, through the miry ways of this sublunary 
world, there hovered ever before him — fervently serene — 
humanely austere — remote, yet benign — the saintly image 
which had captivated his youth — the "Apostolic," the 
** Angelical " Leighton. 

Meanwhile, ere his Bedell had left the press, Burnet 
secured a copy of Bedells controversy with Waddesworth 
the papist, then long out of print. He advised the publisher, 
who on this occasion was one "John Southby," (apparendy 
an alias of Chiswell), to reprint it, with the Life ; but 
noticed, when the work was in proof, a vigorous justification 
of wars of religion undertaken in self-defence. As the onus 
of an anonymous publication must fall on the publisher, 
who had recently incurred odium by printing Whig books, 
Burnet showed him the passage ; and the printer submitted 
it to Sir Roger T Estrange, a rabid ** Tory," then licenser of 
the press. L* Estrange insisted that two pages should be^ 
reprinted ; that a note by himself, contravening the argument 
of the text, should be marginally inserted ; and that the text 
itself should be deliberately garbled so as to transform a 
categorical into an hypothetical argument. Burnet (though 
opposed to Bedell's view) could not but resent so flagrant 
a falsification. He insisted on bracketing the insertions ; 
and washed his hands of the matter. 

When the book appeared is not clear, though Burnet 
himself suggests that it came out early in 1685. Its author- 
ship was not at first known, and Bancroft suspected his 
amanuensis. The surplus copies however reappeared after 
the Revolution, with ChiswelFs imprint and Burnet's name 
on the title page, and a clumsy printer s recension of the 
two garbled pages. The forgery attracted expert attention ; 
and Burnet was of course charged with editorial dishonesty, 
a charge which he triumphantly refuted. 

Meanwhile "I continued," says Burnet, "still at the 
" Rolls, avoiding very cautiously everything that related to 
^' the public ; for I abhorred," he adds — the statement 
sounds strange in the light of his subsequent practice — "the 
"making the pulpit a stage for venting of passion or for the 
"serving of interests." Another parish fell vacant, of which 
the people were patrons ; " and it was probable it would 

1684] Burnet is dismissed from the Rolls 205 

**have fallen on me; though London was in so divided a 
"state, that everything was managed by the strength of 
*' parties. Yet the king, apprehending the choice might 
"have fallen on me, sent a message... [that] he would take 
"it amiss." Burnet redoubled his caution. As the fifth of 
November approached he deprecated the usual sermon ; lest 
by the topics proper to the day he should incense yet further 
the Duke. The Master however insisted ; and Burnet, 
who, for a year, had never touched on Romanism, delivered 
a Phillipic against Popish cruelty. It was qualified by 
arguments on behalf of exemplary papists, and by an 
eulogy of passive obedience. Unluckily however the text 
was that which appeals from the rage of the Lion and 
Unicorn ; and this was interpreted as an oblique allusion to 
the supporters of the Royal arms. Burnet moreover rashly 
referred to a reported imprecation of James I against 
descendants who should revert to Rome. The Court was 
enraged ; and Burnet, in his own defence, printed the 
sermon. The Master of the Rolls nevertheless at the end 
of term, received orders to dismiss Burnet, as a person dis- 
affected, from a chapel which the King chose to number 
with his own. Sir Harbottle perforce yielded ; and Burnet's 
sermon of November 16 proved his last as preacher at the 
Rolls. He lost however little. "It has pleased God," he 
wrote to Harley on January 10, " so to order it by his 
" providence, that the employment in which I was is fallen 
"by the good old man's death, so that if I had been let 
"alone I must have been by this time in the same state 
" in which I am. I hope I shall be a gainer by my silence, 
" and I do not think that any other person can lose much 
" by it. To be forced to retire into one's own mind and to 
" examine all that one has said as well as the principles and 
" motives from which it has proceeded, may prove both a 
" blessing to oneself and in due time (that is in God s time) 
" may be of some advantage to others." In the same letter 
the dispossessed preacher touchingly exerts himself in 
the interest of other men ; notably those still unsettled 
among the Scottish "Test" nonjurors. 

Meanwhile the disgraced divine retained the favour, if 
not the confidence of Halifax; who about December secretly 
distributed, as a "ballon d'essai" his famous anonymous 

2o6 Death and character of Charles II [ch. v 

tract on The Character of a Trimmer. For the Minister 
had at length defied the extreme Tories ; and hoped to oust 
them and their patron the Heir Apparent from the Royal 
favour. He and Burnet discussed with special earnestness 
rumours, current that winter, as to the King's leanings 
towards Rome. These, as is well known, were strikingly 
verified, when in February, after a few days illness, Charles 1 1 
suddenly died. " The great change that has been here," 
wrote Burnet, a week later to Harley, has ** driven almost 
*' all other thoughts out of my mind." The melancholy reflec- 
tions excited By "so great a turn of divine providence 
^* ...are (he opines) fitter exercises for a closet than for a 
*' letter." Characteristically however he managed after the 
autopsy, to interview the Royal physicians ; and learned 
from them the folly of those rumours as to poison, which he 
himself, on dubious evidence, subsequently endorsed. 

And what of the posthumous character of the King 
which Burnet, some eighteen months later, added to his 
Memoirs? It is this which draws the notorious parallel 
with Tiberius, of which Fox said that no one but the 
author has ever seen the force of it ; and advances the 
monstrous charge of incestuous passion. The glaring and 
progressive contrast between this portrait — the likeness of 
1683 — and the terms of the Brisbane letter — suggests a 
sinister interpretation ; Burnet, it may be urged, deliberately 
libelled the Monarch who had repelled his advances. Such 
a view, however, would be grossly unjust Burnet's judge- 
ment no doubt was often warped by his passions ; and he 
had been greatly wronged. But, apart from this, the 
closing months of the reign had been darkened by the 
complete and illegal evasion of Parliamentary control ; and 
by a severity, in some instances indistinguishable from 
tyranny, which assumed even exaggerated proportions in 
the eyes of those into whose arms the Court had now 
thrust Burnet. Moreover, the knowledge that the Head 
of his Church had been a secret apostate to her rival 
caused in Burnet's own breast an overwhelming revulsion. 
Such sacrilegious hypocrisy, he thought, showed a con- 
science capable of any and every crime. 



The demise of the Crown, long awaited by all parties 
with acute apprehension, had passed off without disorder. 
The " Tory " wave had by no means subsided ; Monmouth 
was in exile; and the new King's promise ''to maintain 
**the government in Church and State as established by 
^^ law' occasioned general satisfaction. But to Burnet 
the terms of the Royal pledge appeared curiously ominous. 
He knew from the King's own lips that he " looked on 
" Queen Elizabeth as a usurper that had no more authority 
" than Oliver Cromwell " ; and he was not therefore re- 
assured by the appeal to legality. But he held his 
peace. He had learned some respect for words uttered 
in confidence; and moreover, as he says, ''though I had 
" spoken of it, it would not have signified much ; for all 
"people took up this for a maxim, that they must trust 
"the Kin^." 

Only the most ecstatic loyalty, however, was welcomed 
at Court. Halifax, on February 8, had a private audience 
of James, in which the King, though civil, foreshadowed 
his disgrace. When therefore he desired leave, as Burnet 
tells us, " to present me to the King, that I might kiss his 
*'hand, which all people did, the King not only refused it, 
"but spake sharply of me." Upon this, having no employ- 
ment which could detain him in England, "I desired Halifax 
" to ask the King's leave for me [to go abroad] ; which 
"the King said he [granted] with all his heart" On 
February 12 Burnet wrote to Sir Edward Harley : "I 
"think to go for some time beyond seas within a few 
"weeks." But as he adds elsewhere, " I could not execute 

2o8 Burnet on the situation [ch. vi 

** this as soon as I intended." His imbecile wife was 
"languishing and likely to die every day." He therefore 
remained in England three months ; a period for him of 
grave apprehension. 

The tide of public feeling and the recent manipulation 
of the urban franchise seemed prophetic of a Parliament 
loyal to the point of servility. This forecast, with the 
Kings peremptory collection of customs unsecured by 
law, gave pause to thoughtful men. Halifax shewed 
extreme depression. He told Burnet, as the latter puts 
it, that only two things " could save us." The King's 
supposed desire for a spirited foreign policy must render 
him dependent on parliamentary supply ; and the initial 
session, curtailed by the exigencies of harvest, might work 
off innocuously the exuberant loyalty of the members. 

Among the Whig extremists meanwhile counsels of 
despair prevailed ; and the violence of their discontent 
"made some hot men in London ...fancy it might be a fit 
"time now for the [exiled] Duke of Monmouth to raise 
"a rebellion." 

To such men, Burnet's "Whig" associations, and the 
rebuff so recently received naturally commended him ; and 
his position became extremely embarrassing. " I knew," 
he says, that men of this stamp " ...were often shut up in 
" little cabals. Some of them came to see me, and talked 
"in general of what might be expected from this Parlia- 
"ment...but...I would have nothing to do with them... for 
" I knew that all the men that were for the Duke of 
"Monmouth were factious and wicked people....! was 
"afraid that they would have insinuated themselves into 
" my Lady Russell," who could have provided the sinews 
of war. He remonstrated with her, and on his advice, 
she declined intercourse with the extremists; "this. ..was 
"imputed to me, and I was severely railed at for it." 
With all over whom he thought he had influence, he 
deprecated a resort to violence ; though his subsequent 
explanation that he " did not yet think the King had done 
"enough to justify any such extreme counsels" no doubt 
unconsciously adumbrates the later attitude of our still non- 
resistant divine. The argument of expediency, however, 
is always the most cogent, where principles differ ; and 

1 68s] Burnet goes into exile 209 

Burnet urged upon the ''resistance" party that **a raw 
" rebellion would be either presently crushed, and so raise 
**the power of the court, and give... colour for.. .a standing 
*'army"; or else it must occasion lasting civil wars, the 
intervention of the French — and perhaps a common- 
wealth. His arguments fell flat ; though no one, he 
says, thought the rising so imminent as it proved. 

When the Session drew near, however, Burnet's 
nervousness increased. He sought and obtained from 
Lady Margarets Scotch relations their concurrence in 
a scheme for entrusting her to "some in whom they 
** had great confidence." Alarming events precipitated his 
departure. Late on the evening of the tenth of May Duke 
Hamilton's son called on Burnet, possibly upon business 
connected with Lady Margaret's affairs. The King, he 
told him, had just received news that the Earl of Argyll— 
Burnet's old friend and Monmouth's fellow-exile — had 
sailed a week earlier in hostile fashion for Scotland. '' I 
•*saw," says Burnet, "it was time for me to be gone, 
" since if risings were once begun I had all reason to expect 
" that I should be used as a suspected person." He made 
his will ; and, within twenty-four hours, sailed for France. 
Ere he had reached the French capital, his wife died. 

As a place of refuge, France had obvious advantages. 
It was necessary for Burnet to avoid the **Whig" exiles 
in Holland ; where, moreover, the Prince of Orange, then 
straining every nerve to conciliate his father-in-law, could 
hardly have regarded Burnet as a persona grata. And 
further, Burnet had ascertained, through the French 
Ambassador in England, that James H would approve 
a sojourn in France if Burnet remained in retirement. 
Burnet had also extracted from the Ambassador a promise 
of due warning, should the King at any future time 
demand his extradition. 

In Paris, " that I might be quiet and less suspected, I " 
(says Burnet) " took a house," and for two months ** lived 
" by myself." Nor did he " think it expedient to converse 
" with any but men of learning." As usual he seized every 
chance of securing historical memoranda, but his informants 
at this juncture were not particularly reliable. Lord 
Montague (Lady Russell's brother-in-law), then in voluntary 

B. 14 

2IO His stay in Paris [ch. vi 

exile, may claim to rank as the most accomplished liar of 
a not very scrupulous day ; while in " Colonel '* Stouppe, 
a former spy of Cromwell, we detect the mere subaltern 
intriguer, concerned to magnify the import of his own 
petty machinations. 

Gossip seems to have been very rife concerning the 
King and Madame de Maintenon, whose marriage was 
generally credited. '* It seems," adds Burnet, *'they design 
** to have the King's life writ in all languages ; for a creature 
"of the Archbishop's of Paris came to me, and told me 
"if I would undertake to write the King's history in 
" English I might have what reward I pleased." But 
times had changed, and with them the sentiments of the 
author of the Regale. It was then but three months 
before the revocation of " The Edict." The solvents of 
bribery, intrigue, and persuasion which had been applied to 
Huguenot firmness, and to the last of which Burnet three 
years earlier had retorted, were now subordinated to the 
stern polemics of the "dragonnades." So* Burnet, as he 
tells us, " cut off the proposition very abruptly. I said the 
"religion that I professed made that I could not employ 
"my pen for the honour of a prince that was employing 
" his whole force for the destruction of it." 

Meanwhile Burnet maintained an active correspondence 
with England. His services were by no means despised 
by so eminent a man as Halifax, who employed him in an 
investigation of some diplomatic importance. Burnet's own 
intelligence from across the Channel, if not invariably 
accurate, was at any rate copious. From numerous sources 
he learnt how Monmouth, no less than Argyll, crossed the 
Rubicon of revolt, to meet with crushing defeat. For on 
June 30, Argyll suffered at Edinburgh that last penalty 
of the law, to which he had been already twice unjustly 
condemned ; while on July 1 5 following Monmouth expiated, 
on an English scaffold, the ruin he had brought upon the 
hapless peasants of the West. 

By these events Burnet himself was affected. Three 
times did the French representative at St James warn him 
to look to himself; since the English King was strongly 
possessed with a belief of his complicity in the rising. 
Burnet however refused to leave Paris till the principal 

i68s-6] Italyy Languedoc, Geneva 211 

prisoners had been tried; lest it might seem he feared 
"discoveries." These proceedings, however, at an end, 
he resolved to take Barillon's hint. " Colonel " Stouppe 
(as an at least nominal Protestant) was finding France 
somewhat too hot to hold him, and Burnet arranged to 
accompany him on a visit to Italy. They left Paris early 
in August ; and, before the end of the month, had passed 
by Lyons, Grenoble, Chambery, Geneva, Lauzanne, Berne, 
to Zurich, whence on September i, Burnet addressed to 
Robert Boyle the first of a famous series of letters. Thence, 
by way of Coire, the Via Mala, and the Splugen, they 
descended into Italy, and journeyed by the Lakes through 
Lombardy to Milan, whence is dated Burnet's letter of 
October i. Padua and Venice were their chief stages 
on the road to Florence ; where Burnet wrote his third 
letter (November 5). Quitting Florence, they travelled 
through the Papal States to Naples, and so on to Rome; 
Burnet's fourth letter bearing date December 8, just before 
their departure from the Papal Capital. He then returned 
to France by way of Marseilles, and made a '*tour" 
through the Southern provinces, where the Huguenot 
persecution raged. The remainder of the winter Burnet 
spent in Geneva. Starting with the spring, he then 
crossed Switzerland to Basle, and passed down the 
Rhine to Nimeguen on the Dutch frontier; whence his 
fifth and final letter, dated May 20, 1686, was despatched. 
He had been travelling nine months. 

These letters, which he subsequently revised for 
publication, are amongst the most characteristic, as they 
were to prove one of the most popular, of Burnet's works. 
Lively and entertaining they are still very good reading. 
Errors of course abound ; on which his enemies fastened. 
The airy confidence with which Burnet, after a sojourn 
scarcely longer than that of the modem tourist, judges his 
surroundings, is delightful ; but real acumen distinguishes 
these hasty obiter dicta. 

On art, of course, his comments are not important 
For pictures he cared little, though he admired the 
Venetians and Holbein. Sculpture excited more en- 
thusiasm ; Ghiberti s Gates and the Pieti of Michael 
Angelo were his favourite modem examples. But the bust 


212 His impressions of Italy [ch. vi 

of Socrates at the Famese Palace interested him more than 
the famous ** Bull " — a " rock of marble cut out into a 
" whole scene of" (to him) second rate statues. For 
mediaeval art he had of course a sovereign contempt ; 
Milan Cathedral "hath nothing to commend it of archi- 
" tecture, it being built in the rude Gothic manner." But 
the ruins of ancient Rome, with their halo of association, 
fascinated his attention ; and he reserved special admiration 
for the great aqueducts of the Campagna. 

His real interest however centred on the constitution, 
civil and ecclesiastical, of the various States ; on the con- 
dition of religion, and of manners, of commerce, and of 

As regards the first head, we can scarcely exaggerate 
the importance of this journey in the development of 
Burnet's views. He was profoundly struck by the contrast 
between the comparative comfort prevailing in the barren 
valleys of Switzerland, and the squalour which had overrun 
the fertile Italian plains. The Campagna, which was 
rapidly becoming depopulated, seemed to him more de- 
nuded than the poorest parts of Scotland. He recognized 
indeed that the decay of Italian commerce (consequent on the 
adoption of the long sea route to I ndia) had dealt a blow at 
Italian prosperity ; but he also realised how much her ruin 
was due to the rapacity of irresponsible rulers. 

In morals and religion the outlook seemed equally 
gloomy. At Venice especially he deplored the decline of 
the military spirit ; and the prevalence of a dull sensuality, 
which could not even plead the specious glamour of romance. 
Superstition and impiety bore forms equally gross ; and 
the adherents of the Molinist revival alone fanned the 
dying flame of piety. 

He had, however, no personal reasons to complain of the 
Roman Court Friends at Paris had dissuaded the author 
of the Reformation from entering the lion's den ; but, as 
Montague had shrewdly suggested, the crisis in England 
demanded amiable tactics. The Pope, says Burnet, "knew 
" who I was the day after I came to Rome. And he [sent 
" word] that he had heard of me, and would give me a 
'* private audience abed, to save me from the ceremony of 
" the pantouffle. But I knew the noise that this would make: 

i68s-6] The Revocation of the Edict 213 

"so I resolved to avoid it, and excused it upon my 
" speaking Italian so ill as I did." Burnet here showed 
himself wise, for, as things were, his intimacy with several 
of the cardinals excited suspicion at home. In conversa- 
tion with Cardinal D'Estrees, who was interested (from 
a Gallican standpoint) in the validity of Anglican orders, 
Burnet unhesitatingly defended their canonical regularity ; 
but avowed his own satisfaction at everything which made 
the reconciliation more difficult. Cardinal Howard, on the 
other hand, questioning Burnet concerning the state of 
public feeling on our shores. While showing Burnet the 
violent letters of the "forward" Romanists in England he 
hinted the dislike of the Roman Court for their policy. 
This could but alienate English sentiment and incapacitate 
the King of England from opposing the pretensions of 
France, whether ecclesiastical or territorial. Of these, as 
churchmen and as Italians, a majority of the College stood 
in dread. 

So frequent indeed was Burnet's intercourse with 
Howard that some Frenchmen, anxious for relics, obtained 
his introduction. Burnet happened to call at the moment 
they received their treasures ; and good humoured 
pleasantries passed. Burnet whispered that it was strange 
to find himself assisting to distribute "the ware of 
" Babylon " ; and Howard, repeating aloud the jest, bade 
his hearers tell "how bold" were "the heretics and how mild 
" the cardinals... at Rome." The " mildness," however, had 
its limits; "though I did not," says Burnet, "provoke any to 
" discourse of points of controversy, yet I defended myself 
"[when] attacked., .with the same freedom that I had done 
"in other places." This "began to be taken notice of"; 
and Prince Borghese, whose kindness had redeemed his 
earlier promise, told Burnet it was "time to go." 

Any mollifying effect, however, which might have 
been produced by the flatteries of Rome, was more than 
counteracted by Burnet's journey through Languedoc. It 
was a turning point of his career. The " Edict" had been 
repealed during his stay in Italy; and the horrors of 
a persecution then at its height left on his impressionable 
mind irrevocable traces. Had the French king merely 
decreed the banishment of his Protestant subjects, Burnet, 

214 Hi^ views an Continental Religion [ch. vi 

on his own principles, could only have objected the loyalty 
of the Huguenots, and the solemn sanctions of the Edict 
But the infamous policy which denied the refuge of flight, 
and yet subjected the recalcitrant to every species of mental, 
moral, and even physical torture, appalled a mind naturally 
humane. "What I saw and knew there from the first hand" 
(he writes in his contemporary letters) "hath so confirmed 
" all the ideas that I had taken from books of the cruelty 
'*of that religion, that I hope the impression... shall never 
"end but with my life." Nor did he see that political 
motives cooperated, or that Louis cynically boasted of 
following Protestant example. Rather he held "that the 
** French king is [not] to be so much blamed in this matter 
" as his religion, which without question, obligeth him to 
"extirpate heretics." Hence it was Burnet derived that 
almost frantic dread of Roman ascendancy, which became 
the "fixed idea" of his old age, and was to draw upon 
him, so frequently, the ridicule of eighteenth century 

Yet repelled as he was by this sinister aspect of 
Romanism, he is none the less unsparing when he treats of 
Protestant error. He saw much to condemn even at 
Geneva ; where he was so cordially received and given 
such facilities for collecting a little English congregation, 
that he was happier " than I had thought it was possible 
" for me to have [been] anywhere out of England." More 
particularly was he gneved at the Calvinistic intolerance 
which obliged every minister to sign the Consensus 
Helvetius ; and this, while it forced many into exile, 
imposed on the consciences of others an intolerable burden. 
" I spoke much to all who came to me of the folly and 
" wickedness of those impositions. I had then such credit 
"among them that... what I spoke upon that subject was 
"not without effect; for they are now... obliged to no 
" subscriptions but are only liable to censure if they write 
"or preach against the established doctrine. The mul- 
" titude and length of their sermons disgusted me 
" much " ; and he thought the people would understand 
and love the Scripture better if a whole chapter were 
substituted for the meagre Scriptural text 

Nor was he better satisfied elsewhere. The apathy of 

i686] He settles at the Hague 215 

the impending eighteenth century was creeping over con- 
tinental religion ; and the " Pietistic " undercurrent (which 
was specially distinctive of Germany), did not come under 
his observation. In Switzerland, in Holland, even (with 
some striking exceptions) among the Huguenot refugees, he 
saw little but a real indifference to the claims of religious 
morality, masked by a factious zeal political rather than pious. 

"All these things," adds Burnet, "lay so much on 
" my thoughts, that I was resolved to retire into some 
" private place and to spend my life in a course of stricter 
"piety... and in writing such books as the state of matters 
" with relation to religion should call for, whether in points 
"of speculation or practice. All my friends" (he rather 
inconsequently proceeds) "advised my coming near 
" England, that I might be easier sent to, and informed 
"of all our affairs, and might accordingly employ my 
"thoughts and time. So I... was resolved to have settled 
" in Groningen or Friezeland." When, however, about 
May, 1686, he reached Utrecht, he found, as he tells us, 
" letters writ to me by some of the Prince of Orange's 
" Court, desiring me to come first to the Hague, and wait 
"on the Prince and Princess, before I should settle any- 
" where." Times, in fact, had changed. The Prince was 
anxious to conciliate the English parties ; Lady Russell, 
whose sufferings made her the idol of the "Whig" remnant, 
and Halifax, now head of the Moderate Opposition, had 
both recommended Burnet to the Prince's good graces. 
He was well received and advised to court the tranquil 
and dignified publicity distinctive of the Hague, where he . 
was safe from the compromising exiles who haunted the' 
great ports. We must picture him therefore till the end ot 
his stay in Holland walking along canals beneath the shade 
of spreading lime trees ; haunting the Moritzhuis ; visiting 
the prison of the de Witts ; and for the first few months 
welcomed at the Huis ten Bosch. 

At the moment when Burnet entered this new arena, 
James II had been but fifteen months on the throne of 
England ; and already a situation of the utmost delicacy 
confronted the husband of the heiress presumptive. For 
James was now an elderly man with a constitution avowedly 
impaired. The children of his second marriage had all died 

2i6 The situation in England [ 

in early childhood ; and though a recent frustration of 
fresh hopes was matter of common gossip, the state of his 
young wife's health seemed to preclude expectation of 
offspring. Her life was even regarded by Burnet and 
others as a valuable barrier against the possible remarriage, 
which might entail on England a further Papist succession. 
Under these circumstances the internal politics of England 
became acutely interesting to the Prince ; whose European 
policy hinged entirely on engaging against France the 
resources of the island realm. On the one hand he was 
bound to avert, by every means in his power, a breach with 
her actual ruler ; while the fact that his wife might at any 
moment succeed to the helm, rendered it equally necessary 
to conciliate her prospective subjects. 

It was therefore highly embarrassing to the Prince that 
James should have definitely brought himself into direct 
conflict with his people. Ignoring the Test Act, he had 
thrust his coreligionists into office ; and a judicial bench, 
x:arefully manipulated, had ostensibly legitimated this policy. 
Roman priests held benefices in virtue of his dispensation ; 
ill^al diplomatic relations existed between Whitehall and 
the Vatican ; a Court of High Commission, in drastic 
fashion, exercised the Royal Supremacy; and a standing 
army camped on Blackheath. The trend of policy was un- 
mistakeable. By dint of prerogative, and if necessary of 
arms, James II meant to force, on an unwilling people, the 
legitimation, if not the ascendancy, of his own Church and 

And how did this state of affairs strike Burnet, his 

soul still palpitating with horror at the methods by which 

Louis XIV had thrust the same religion on the unwilling 

Protestants of Languedoc ? To the Erastian enthusiast 

it seemed hard to see the English civil power once more 

the officious tool of Jesuitical ambitions. But the preacher 

of passive obedience saw at this time no hope, save in 

the future " exaltation " — he means, of course, the regular 

peaceable succession — of the Prince and Princess of Orange. 

Such views lent a zest to the intercourse for which his 

introductions gave occasion. The advent of a man so 

I distinguished, and so well-versed in the complications of 

LEnglish politics, whether religious or secular, cannot have 

i686] His relations with IVilliam and Mary 217 

been otherwise than welcome at the princely court. 
Accident increased his importance ; and he was received 
into some degree of intimacy. The Prince even submitted, 
with unusual docility, to the cross-examination of the 
English divine as to his views, political and ecclesiastical. 
The version of their relations which Burnet, nearly twenty 
years later, incorporated in his History y took colour from 
intervening changes ; and it was probably his Exclusionist 
acquaintance, rather than himself, who feared so much the 
" arbitrary inclinations " attributed to the Prince — ^who ' 
professed the love of liberty which Burnet ascribes to 
himself. But the Prince no doubt seized the occasion for 
reassuring, through so transparent a medium, the appre- 
hensions of the Church, and of the Whigs. 

Nor can we quite accept Burnet's complacent estimate 
of his own persuasive powers. William did not require 
Burnet s somewhat unpatriotic reminder, that the Dutch 
fleet should be always ready for a rupture of relations with 
England. The advice of Mordaunt, who at the close of 
1686 (on the appointment of the ecclesiastical commission ' 
and the trial of the Bishop of London) urged a breach 
with James, did not need Burnet's opposition. And we 
can hardly suppose that the spur of Burnet's exhortations 
nerved the Princess Mary to plead for her former tutor, ^? 
and assure him of her sympatny. 

And the incident of the Crown matrimonial ? That 
episode remains mysterious. It was not recorded by 
Burnet till three years later ; and he gives no clue to its 
occasion. The resolute Stadtholder, intent on the elabora- 
tion of a vast confederacy against France, and himself third 
in the line of the presumptive English succession, must 
indeed have chafed against the precarious nature of a hold 
upon England which hinged on the eventual complacence :< . 
of his hitherto neglected wife. But the saturnine Dutch- 
man, on such a topic, would never have confided in the 
volatile S cot. Benthinck cannot have been the "agent 
provocateur " ; for Benthinck and Burnet, at this time, 
were on formal terms. But Henry Sydney, the Prince's 
English favourite, niay have lamented to Burnet the 
prince's estrangement from his wife — his indifference to 
the interests of England ; and may have ascribed both, in 

2 1 8 Resultant jealousies [ch. vi 

part, to smouldering political jealousy. At any rate, Burnet^, 
who^ as we know, had in 1 68 1 proposed the Prince as 
Regent, now abruptly broke to the astonished young wHe^ 
(who hiad presumed that her rights vested in her husband) 
the " ridiculous posture " of an English king-consort. To 
her request for a remedy he boldly proposed, as a means 
of focussing on herself and her country her husband's 
affections, that she should undertake to place in his hands, 
from the moment of her accession, all actual authority : 
and should do her best to secure him the Crown for life. 
" I told her," he records in 1691, "nobody could suffer by 
" this but she and her sister ; and it was but too probable 
" that her sister" (who was but little her junior) "could never 
"be concerned in it" The simplicity with which the young 
Princess broached to her. husband this strajige compact of 
surrender — and the noble reticence which marked her 
implied rebuke — are matters of history. "We may however 
doubt whether the Prince's comment, that though nine years 
married, he had never " had the confidence " to discuss the 
matter with his wife, was so complimentary as Burnet 
presumed ; or whether the episode increased, so much as 
Burnet supposes, the Prince's confidence. 

Meanwhile, as Burnet puts it, '* great notice came to be 
*' taken of the free access and long conferences I had with 
"them both." The resultant jealousies are quaintly por- 
trayed in the coiresppjideace of Mr Stanle y '( chaplain^ to 
the Princess) with the Bish op of London. T he BisRop ir 
seems had originally warned Stanley a Sinst the U octon 
" I cannot but take notice," notes Stanley on August M, 
"that Dr Burnet will stay here still, and is perpetually 
"desiring to talk with the Princess in private, and too 
"often gets the liberty. His design cannot be good, 
" for it can be only to ruin the Princess's " [religious Y\ 
" reputation, or to piece up his own lost credit by 
" pretence of her favour. Or else to represent the true 
" friends of the Church and State ill to her Royal Highness, 
"and its enemies well. And the consequence of his 
" intimacy here must be very bad ; for men will be apt to 
" think or suspect, that she is as deceitful and full of tricks 
"as Dr Burnet" Stanley has, he adds, spoken plainly to 
the Princess, and he hopes with success ; but he begs the 

i686] A letter to Dr Fall 219 

assistance of the Bishop, especially as regards the Prince, 
" For I am verily persuaded it is only Dr B.'s intolerable 
''impudence and pressing importunity (observed and 
"laughed at by all the Court) rather than her kindness 
"for him, that procures him so frequent accesses. ...But Dr 
" B. is everything here. He goes in a cloak like one 
"of their ministers, and as I am informed the last Sacra- 
" ment day he received the Sacrament both in the morning 
" early with the Prince, and at noon with the Princess and 
" us ; but yet he doth not by all this gain on the Prince. I 
" find that some that have appeared in his behalf to the 
" Princess have urged for his commendation that he could 
" not come up to the heights of some men ; and what this 
" means we very well know. I know Dt R I'g nf gn V>ad^ 
" repute with all the good. rhVifrhmen of London^ kpJt|3L 
"clergy and laity, that nothing can be spoken more to hgr 
" ICH.^s injury than to say she is a favourer of him....DK 
** B. is so'tmprudent that he for his intelligence quotes Mr \ 
" How the Non-conformist and Mr Penn the Quaker and J 
"such other as his chief or only correspondents." y^ 

To these or similar attacks Burnet seems to allude 
in an unpublished letter to his friend Dr Fall, by this time 
Principal of Glasgow University, which gives so interesting 
a picture of Burnet's contemporary views that we make no 
apology for printing it entire. 

My Dear Friend, 

I had your letter on a Saturday, just before the 
critical hour^ came on, which made your part of it be 
remembered with a very particular emphasis. For although 
every thing you say gives a wound, yet at the same time, 
amidst all that mist, there is enough to temper the trouble 
that the melancholy strains in it raises with a good measure 
of joy in God. In short, my dear friend, we are the disciples 
of the Cross, and we who have passed the greatest part of 
our life with as much ease and plenty as if our portion were 
in this world must not think it strange to see our selves ill 
represented and ill understood even when we know we 
deserve it the least ; and to have friends not only fail us but 

^ ue. the hour of devotion ? 

220 A letter to Dr Fall [ch. vi 

to turn our most malicious enemies. I have passed through 
a great deal of that and you may perhaps have your share 
in the same ill usage. But we are the followers of him that 
was made perfect through sufferings, and therefore we ought 
not to be afraid ; for who is he that can harm us if we are the 
followers of that which is good ? I am glad at what you tell 
me concerning our worthy friends Mr Charteris and Mr 
Aird ; pray remember me most kindly to them and tell them 
I hope I have still a share in their best thoughts, which I 
desire as earnestly as I need it much. The things that are 
a doing among you would surprise me extremely consider- 
ing what may come to pass hereafter, if I had not seen so 
much of the folly and fury of some people's tempers as to 
wonder at nothing; but you may remember of what has 
passed between you and me on those subjects. You will 
see a Critique that I have writ on Mr Varillas^ in which 
you will perhaps think I have been too severe ; but really I 
thought the occasion required it Yet I will bear what 
reproofs you bestow on me for it Within a few weeks you 
will see some letters that I have writ concerning the things 
that appeared most remarkable to me in my little tour, for 
travels sounds too big for so short a ramble. I will anti- 
cipate nothing upon that subject, but perhaps even you, that 
saw most of the places through which I passed, will meet 
with things that will surprise you. For I writ of nothing 
but that which is singular, except where the series of other 
things forces me to bring in common matters. Here I 
fancy I may stay for some time. I have nothing to do 
neither with the Scotts at Rotterdam nor with the English 
that are believed to be in Amsterdam, for as I have seen 
none of them, so I am resolved that my soul shall never 
■enter into their secrets ; and I do assure you I am so entirely 
possessed with the doctrine of the Cross that I am further 
than ever from all things that lead to the drawing the sword 
against those in whose hands God hath put it So that 
you may depend upon it that I will never be directly nor 
indirectly so much as in the knowledge of things of that 
nature. If God have yet any pleasure in the Reformation 
He will raise it up again, though I confess the deadness of 
those Churches that own it make me apprehend that it is 

^ Who had criticized his History of the Reformation, 

i686] The Toleration overtures 221 

to be quite laid in ashes ; for nothing but the mere sense of 
truth keeps me firm to it, since the scandals that are given 
even by those of our admired Church of England would 
otherwise turn a man's stomach against it. Yet we must 
measure our faith not by the persons that profess it but 
by a more infallible rule. Otherwise when we read the 
Epistles that the Apostles wrote to the Churches and those 
of the 2nd and 3rd Chapter of the Revelation we will find 
as much as would have disgusted us at the Christian 
Religion if we had taken our measures concerning it from 
what we might have seen in those Churches. I writ you 
no news from this place, as I expect none from you ; only I 
will assure you that upon as large a knowledge as almost is 
possible for me to arrive to in so short a time of the Princess 
here, she is the most wonderful person that I ever knew. 
She has a true and a generous notion of the Christian \ 
keligion andheF life ts'ari example to all the world. SHe ' 
has a modesty, a sweetness^ and a humility in her that 
cannot te enough admired. She has a vast understanding 
and knows a great deal ; in short she has all that one can 
wish for to make her one of the greatest blessings that has 
been in human nature. These things may seem hyper- 
bolical but I do protest sincerely to you I say nothing but 
what is strictly true. Now the Lord God direct and preserve 
you. Adieu. When you go to Hamilton make humble 
compliments in my name, and commend my \sic\ kindly to 
P[resident] Sibbald. 

Hague, 26 Sept. [1686]. 

The complaints of the chaplain at the Hague may have 
stimulated the irritation of King James ; who more than 
once expostulated with his daughter for countenancing a 
disgraced man. Remonstrance was however useless ; the 
Princess showed Burnet the letters, and even consulted him 
as to the tone her answers should take. 

In November of this year a more important interlude 
followed. The English king was not without hope that 
the Stadtholder might extend to English affairs the 
principles of toleration so characteristic of the Dutch 
economy. Penn, the celebrated apostle of tolerance, was 
therefore despatched to the Hague on an informal mission. 

222 James II denounces Burnet [ca vi 

He was to obtain, if possible, the Prince's concurrence in 
an attempt to secure the repeal of the Test Acts ; . which 
(though officially overridden) still formally barred the 
legitimation of Roman Catholic claims. After consultation 
with Burnet, the Prince returned an answer, exactly 
calculated to satisfy the English Moderates. He declared 
himself favourable to a general toleration ; but inimical to 
a repeal of the Test ; that being the only practical security 
for the predominance of Protestantism under a Papist 

As unsuccessful was Penn's tentative appeal to Burnet's 
well-known principles of toleration ; on the strength of 
which, Penn urged Burnet's return to England, and even 
promised him preferment But Burnet rejected these 
overtures, taking his stand on the policy advocated by 
the Prince. As a natural consequence, about the New 
Year, 1687, the private expostulations of James on 
Burnet's own account were supplemented by diplomatic 
instances. Aware of Burnet's non-resistance fervour, the 
Prince, as rumour reported, coldly replied that he saw no 
reason to suspect his loyalty. Prudence however com- 
pelled an ostensible disgrace. Burnet remained indeed at 
the Hague, and maintained, through the medium of 
Benthinck, correspondence with the princely pair; but 
eighteen months were to elapse before he saw them again. 

The result of the intercourse thus abruptly interrupted 
may be seen in the interesting characters of William and 
Mary, which Burnet recorded in this interval of apparent 
lisfavour. His estimate of theT^rihce Is jiist ; his comment 
prophetic. The Prince's "martial inclination," writes 
Burnet, '' will naturally carry him, when he comes to the 
^ I " throne of England, to bear down the greatness of France; 
*' and if he but hits the nature of the English nation right 
* * at first, he will be able to ^iye.laws to .a^V ^l^Jig P^' • • • ^^^ 
"'• if the Prmce does not in many things change ETs way, he 
*' will hardly gain the hearts of the nation ; his coldness 
*' will look like contempt, and that the English cannot 
** bear ; and they are too impatient to digest that slowness 
" that is almost become natural to him, in the most 
" inconsiderable things ; and his silent way will pass for 
*' superciliousness. But that which is more important, he 

1686-7] Bumefs characters oflVilliam and Mary 223 

; *'will be both King of England and Stadtholder; the 
** Dutch will perhaps think a King of England too great 
** to be their Stadtholder ; and the English will hardly be 
" brought to trust a Prince that has an army of 30,000 men 
** near them." 

The corresponding character of the Princess (like the 
letter to Fall) foreshadows _ the ^ passionate loycdQ:_wl^^ It was a loyalty compact of many 
elements. In it the politicians respect for a discreet 
sagacity, the patriot's enthusiasm for an e§s.^ntially patriot 
Quee n, the d evotion— half chivalrous, half paternal — of a 
man many . years Eer senior for a beautiful and gracious 
woman , merged in the veneration of the divine for one 
whom he regarded as a jainj. 

Meanwhile, his apparent disgrace excited the lively 
satisfaction of the Reverend William Stanley. But the 
events of the autumn had changed the outlook of his 
Episcopal correspondent. Stanley's elation seems now to 
have incurred a rebuke at the hands of my lord of 
London ; for the chaplain's letter of March fj following 
is on the defensive tack. 

" ...Concerning Dr B. : I know he hath complained of 
" my unkindness to him, though I paid him as much 
" respect as I think he could expect from me. For he 
" was here introduced by a French Presbyterian interest, 
" making his application to none of the Church of England 
'* here ; his acquaintance and constant conversation was 
*' only with the disaffected to our Church and State, and 
" was perpetually intriguing and desiring to have private 
" discourse with the Prince and Princess &c. which made 
" everybody jealous of him ; and I abstained from his 
" company both in obedience to your Lordship's letter, and 
" according to my own judgment, and because I saw he 
"did by his Elemosynary lecture set up for faction and 
" popularity here, and courted the women, and some of bad 
" fame to support his interest, and [I] was at the same time 
** advertised how jealous the King was of him, and how he 
" disliked any one's having acquaintance with him. I dare 
" say if anybody had been here and seen his busy flattering 
"and insinuating carriage, he would. have been as strange 
"to him as I was, if he at all loved our Church. And I 

224 His courtship of Mary Scott [ch. vi 

"saw too that my discountenancing him did somewhat 
'' abate his interest and reputation. And against such a 
*' pressing forwardness as he used, nothing could be 
" opposed but somewhat that will [?] be pretty public. 
"And therefore I wholly abstained from his lecture and 
" company." 

By this ostensible banishment from courtlier circles^ 
Burnet was at leisure for the claims of general society. 
A result followed, which we are fain to relate in his own 
ingenuous language. "An accident" (he says) "happened 
" to me... which gave a great turn to the rest of my life, 
" Hitherto I had lived without children, and by con- 
" sequence without any great concern with relation to other 
" persons, except it was for a few friends whom I esteemed 
"and loved very tenderly. But now a new scene was 
" opened to me. There was a gentlewoman at the Hague 
"originally of Scotch extraction, but of a family long 
" settled in Holland. She was an only child, and was bred 
at a great expense, as one of the best fortunes at the 
Hague. She was very perfect in music of all sorts, she 
both drew and painted to great perfection. She spoke 
" French, Dutch and English equally well; she had a very 
" good understanding and a very sweet temper ; and was 
"well instructed in religion, rather like one that had 
"studied divinity than barely to be a good Christian. 
" She had continued unmarried till she was 27 year old, 
" resolving not to marry till she saw a person that she 
" could like. If" (muses the aged Bishop, for such he was 
when he penned these lines) '* she was not a perfect beauty, 
" she was very agreeable and was well-shaped." Officious 
friends tried a little match-making diplomacy. " I was 
" desired to visit her, but declined ; for I had no thoughts 
"of marriage, but was then looking for a dismal over- 
" turning of religion and liberty ; yet seeing her accident- 
"ally, I liked her conversation so well, that upon her 
*' invitation, I went to see her^ and continued to see her 
" often." 

The natural consequences followed ; Burnet fell in love. 
Handsome, agreeable, ardent, in the vigour of life, and with 
a European reputation in religious and intellectual circles,. 

^ The words ** upon her invitation ^ stand deleted. 


i687] Burnet and the Arminians 225 

he as naturally succeeded. Moreover, for the second time, 
superstition, or, as Burnet calls it, a "belief of absolute 
" predestination," came to his aid. His first wife had had 
it foretold to her that she should marry a man bearing 
Burnet's initials. 

" My second wife," he writes, " had [in early youth] 
" many suitors, but could not bring her mind to consent to 
"any of them.... One of whom she had a great opinion 
" [then] told her she would be married to a clergyman of 
"another country; so upon... receiving my address, she 
" came to think that... I was appointed to be her husband,'* 
True love, however, as we shall find, was to meet with its 
proverbial obstacles. 

Meanwhile his stay at the Hague was leaving its mark 
on Burnet's mental development As Mr Clarke has 
pointed out, it was probably his relations with the Dutch 
Arminians in 1664 which had first shaken Burnet's hold on 
his ancestral Calvinism. His orthodoxy on this point had 
been strongly, and no doubt justly, suspected at Glasgow ; his 
letter to Comber, in 1683, shows how far he then was from 
the CalvinistiQ. standpoint. ~ Intercourse with the heads of 
the Remonstrant or Arminian community at Amsterdam 
now doubly strengthened his bias against Calvinism ; 
and confirmed his love of that tolerance for which the 
Arminians were renowned. Le Clerc, who had been 
driven from Geneva by the pressure of Calvinistic opinion, 
translated his remarks on Varillas, and helped to arrange 
for a French translation of his Reformation. Traces of 
their correspondence survive ; and the ingenuous letter in 
which Burnet sketches the favourable notice of his History 
which he trusts Le Clerc will insert in his own periodical, is 
specially amusing. 

More important are his relations with Van Limborch ; 
one of the noblest men and most learned theologians 
whom the Remonstrant Church produced. His greatest 
work, the Theologia Christiana ad praxin pietatis, ac 
promotionem Pacis Christ, unice directa, appeared in 
1686 ; and probably influenced (more especially by its 
candid treatment of opposing arguments^ Burnet's sub- 
sequent work on the Articles. Like tne rest of the 
Remonstrant community, Limborch (through the some- 

B. 15 

226 A letter to Van Limbarch [ 

what rationalizing tendencies of his speculations) had fallen 
under the suspicion of Socinianism. In 1687 he sent 
Burnet an early presentation copy of his De Veritate 
reltgianis Christiana^ which takes the form of a dia- 
logue between a Christian and a learned Jew. Burnet 
professed himself delighted with this work ; its " candid " 
exposition of the Jewish case, and its "convincing" defence 
of the Christian, pleased him equally. But he was shocked 
to find that the question of Christ's divinity was studiously 
ignored, as a belief neither essential to salvation, nor 
explicitly contained in the Scriptures. Modestly but 
firmly — in letters of which the Latinity is rather fluent 
than finished — he remonstrates on this point with the great 
theologian. " I have written to you," he says, " in haste, but 
*' not rashly ; for there is in the whole of theology no topic 
"which has exercised me longer, or more seriously." 
He is not one who on such a point would accommodate 
truth to popular prepossessions ; since he is rather too 
indifferent to the charges which the more rigid school of 
theologians, in order to excite odium, may formulate on this 
head. But the *' divine worship paid to Christ in the New 
" Testament " is really "the most serious of all the pre- 
" judices under which the Jews labour"; since they regard 
such worship as either idolatrous or polytheistic. Moreover, 
among careless or hostile critics even in the Christian camp, 
Van Limborch will himself incur the charge (as Burnet 
feels certain — the unjust charge) of Socinianism ; and such 
a charge will do both Limborch himself, and the com- 
munity which he represents, great harm among the 
English, " who are most fervently attached to this tenet 
*' of the divinity of Christ." Burnet urges the great writer 
to take the earliest occasion of explaining himself ; and in 
fact points out how it may be done. " The arguments which 
*' have been deduced from the Old Testament in favour of 
*' the doctrine of the Trinity are so slight and so far 
" beneath a theologian, that you will render the thing less 
" worthy of yourself and what is more of your cause, if you 
" even touch on them. The worship of our Lord belongs to 
"practice, and is to be defended"; but school metaphysics 
with respect to the Trinity, Personality, or Hypostatic Union 
are to be avoided. Burnet regrets that "the Fathers 

i687] Concerning Chrisfs Divinity 227 

" were led aside from the simplicity of the Gospel, to 
" distinctions hardly worthy of philosophers, and still less of 
" theologians ; and it were to be wished that this age 
" could be recalled to a primitive simplicity, which is most 
** certainly done, when men avoid the exaggerations and 
** errors common to all parties who engage in such disputes." 
On the other hand, says Burnet, " I should admit, that if 
" our Messias had proclaimed himself a God other than 
** the One Jehovah he would have been justly repudiated ; 
^' I should also admit that a multiplication of divinities, or 
"worship paid to the creature, are monstrous crimes. 
" I should then admit that Christ is to be worshipped ; 
"whence... I should further deduce that he is God. For 
" out of the whole contexture, both of the Old and New 
" Testament, it is apparent that the charge of idolatry 
" refers to the fact that idols which were no true Gods, 
"were worshipped.... How are these things to be re- 
" conciled } Here I should not attempt to prove the 
" Divinity of Christ from the Old or New Testament ; 
" rather I should regard it as a deduction from the worship 
" rendered to him. But I should show that this difficulty 
" ought not to weigh with the Jew, who is bound to ascribe 
" to the Shekinah the name and worship due to God ; nor 
" shall I deny the Shekinah to have been a creature, since, 
" as it would seem, it was purely a mass of refined and lucent 
" matter, wrapped in another mass of cloudy matter " (and 
supernaturally preserved from dissolution), " whence oracles 
" were issued. If therefore this mass of inanimate matter 
" bear the name, and receive the worship, due to the 
" supreme Jehovah, this is enough to convince the Jew, that 
" if the Divine Man we worship was the Living Oracle of 
" the Deity, far surpassing their Shekinah, it was right he 
" should be distinguished by the name and worship due to 
" God. For, though he was a man, yet (in some fashion 
'* which transcends our comprehension) to him the Deity 
" was united. And reducing the matter to the laws of a 
" true philosophy. Union, when it exists between substances 
" of distinct orders, is nothing but the closest interaction. 
"And no difficulty is apparent once we have acknowledged 
" that (in whatever fashion) the interaction of the soul by 
" which our body is moved, brings about a communication 

IS— 2 

228 Halewyn the Republican [ 

" of properties. The honour due to the soul is extended 
" to the body ; and in the same way we now also worship 
" the supreme God, when we worship Christ." 

To the cogency of this appeal Van Limborch responded 
with the '* agreeable humility, and affable reception of 
'' criticism " for which, as Burnet says, he was renowned ; 
and the statement which he prepared for publication seemed 
to Burnet eminently satisfactory. 

Yet more important was this interval to Burnet's 
political development. He still held rigorously aloof from 
the " Whig " exiles at the ports ; among whom, at this 
time, was John Locke, as yet known to fame merely as 
Shaftesbury's physician. But none the less the very soil 
of the United Provinces was a peipetual protest against 
the doctrine of passive obedience. 

Specially significant in this direction was Burnet's 
intimacy with Corneille Terestein de Halewyn, a judge 
of the Court of Holland. Eminent in his profession, 
cultivated in his tastes, he understood ''the state of Greek 
"and Roman Commonwealths" (says Burnet) "beyond 
"any man I ever knew, except Algernon Sydney"; and he 
accordingly fraternized with Burnet, to whom the " Roman 
"authors" were "equally dear." He had a Dutchman's 
passion for "public liberty"; but his Republicanism was 
of a sober stamp. It was thus the more calculated to 
impress the moderate Burnet ; whose royalist traditions 
and strong common sense could not revolt from it, as 
they had revolted from the crude theoretic Radicalism of 
the far more brilliant Sydney. For Halewyn, though 
starting from the premisses of the " Louvestein " or 
extreme Republican faction, practically favoured what 
amounted to a limited monarchy. The directly executive 
functions of the States-General seemed to him the fatal 
flaw in the Dutch constitution ; and Burnet, who had 
noticed that the counsels of an English Parliament were 
generally as bad as its criticism was sound, acquiesced in 
this opinion. With Halewyn's desire for the separation 
of Executive and Legislature, had dawned on the Dutch- 
man a new respect for the hereditary principle. The 
'' factions and animosities " in almost all their towns, made 
him as averse to parity in the State as was Burnet to 

168;] Burnet and the English Court 229 

parity in the Church. For power, so Halewyn argued, 
if exercised by right of birth, excites less envy than 
when wielded by a former equal. Moreover, Halewyn 
had become convinced that, all errors notwithstanding, 
William was sincerely devoted to the fortunes of the 
United Provinces ; and that the maintenance of a factious 
opposition must consequently ruin the country. From 
a teacher so sanely practical, Burnet will more readily 
have absorbed the doctrine, that even as regards political , 
** resistance " — " Salus populi suprema est lex." 

Meanwhile his personal relations with the English 
Court had reached a stage of acute tension. In January 
or February 1687, appeared at Amsterdam fiurnet's 
Travels. They created an enormous...seiisation ; ^^writEin 
about^ month the fifth edition was in the press at Am- 
stCTd am y "ahd^ a 'French tr anslatiMi ifi progress. As thfe-^ 
'llUCC^SjieJscaidale*' was eiitirely due to their lurid picture 
of countries blessed, in . double measure with Popery and 
^Bti^Xovernment the irritation of the English Court 
may:bejm3gined The sale was prohihifeH in^ England, 
Imd all copies in circulation this side of the Channel were 
as far as possible seized. The book however seems to 
have been immediately reprinted in England ; and such 
was the d emajad-.that by July it was. agaia almost unprp- 
curable . Bur net's ano nyniQus. ^tr fw/Mfrf^r xziflitff on certam 
JieflS£iions which the Travels had occasioned appeared more 
than a year later, and are principally remarkable for a fine 
eulogy of Plutarch " the greatest of all the ancient authors." 

But this was not the worst of his offences. Qn 

February > My 1682^ James H published his ScotcK 

Beclaration of Indu lgence with its ifl-starred allusion to 
*' Our absolute gower.^. which all our subjects are ]EK)und 
*' to obey wlthpyjL reserve.'^ THe well-dese rved strictures 
whicTraTmost immediatej^jsauedL-Wcr^ thc^gfcao^ 
jiistty^cribed tff^urnet. 

j^amT'TKe^a pF and sarc astic Reasons <^Z0^2ist^jM T^' 
pealing the [Englishj /<?i;/ wjiiclT appearecT anonymously 
Defore March 21, were also attributed, as justly, to Burnet's 
fertile j>en ; and seem to have evoked a famous retort 

Early in April the Poet Laureate, Dry den, ^who with 
c ourtly alacrity had ju;H?sta tized to ItdmeJ, published his 

230 Is satirized by Dryden [ch,vi 

celebrated ecclesiastical satire The Hind and the Panther. 

yOf this amorphous'^aIIegory7 composed, itls^id, on a hint 
from the highest quarters, the final episode describes 
I how the Pigeons or Church of England Clergy chose for 
I their representative the huzzaed. Under this pseudonym 
I we are supposed to recognize our friend Dr^Burnet 

Various motives have been imagined for tKts rather 
irrelevant onslaught ; but Dryden's epithet " The Captain 
•* of the Test " suggests that Dryden, at the last moment, 
had orders to scarify the author of the pamphlet against 
Repeal. We give this famous and singularly exasperating 

"A portly Prince, and goodly to the sight 
" He seemed a son of Anak for his height, 
"Like those whom stature did to crowns prefer 
"Blackbrowed and bluff, like Homer's Jupiter; 
"Broad-backed and brawny, built for love's dedight, 
"A prophet formed to maJce a female proselyte. 
"A theologue more by need than genial bent; 
"By breeding sharp, by nature confident, 
" Interest in all his actions was discerned ; 
"More learned than honest, more a wit than leamed; 
"Or forced by fear or by his profit led, 
"Or both conjoined, his native clime he fled: 
" But brought the virtues of his heaven along ; 
"A fair behaviour, and a fluent tongue. 
"And yet with all his arts he could not thrive, 
"The most unlucky parasite alive; 
"Loud praises to prepare his paths he sent, 
" And then himself pursued his compliment ; 
"But by reverse of fortune chased away 
"His gifts no longer than their author stay;... 
"...Oft has he flattered and blasphemed the same, 
" For in his rage he spares no sovereign's name : 
"The hero and the tyrant change their style 
"By the same measure that they frown or smile. 
"...His praise of foes is venomously nice; 
"So touched it turns a virtue to a vice... 
"...Seven Sacraments he wisely does disown 
"Because he knows Confession stands for one; 
"...But he, uncalled, his patron to control, 
" Divulged the secret whispers of his soul ; 
"Stood forth the accusing Satan of his crimes, 
"And offered to the Moloch of the times. 
" Prompt to assail and careless of defence, 
"Invulnerable in his impudence. 
He dares the world, and eager of a name. 


i687] Reflects on the Declaration 231 

*'He thrusts about, and justles into fame. 
"Frontless and satire-proof, he scours the streets 
"And runs an Indian muck at all he meets. 
"So fond of loud report, that not to miss 
"Of being known (his last and utmost bliss) 
" He rather would be known for what he is." . 

Seldom in the history of satire have more severe 
blows been dealt, even by the "mailed fist" of Dryden; 
and we find, without surprise, that Burnet retorted on him^. 

Meanwhile, the appearance on April 4, 1687, ^^ ^he 
English Declaration of Indulgence — (which had pre- 
ceded by but a few days that of Dryden's poem) evoked 
from Burnet some further anonymous Reflections. They 
are very important ; for Burnet subsequently represented this 
Declaiatinn as the real justification of the English Revolution. 

To the principle of Toleration, Burnet, in this Tract 
shows himself openly favourable ; and he regards a Parlia- 
mentary revision of the severe penal laws against Papists 
as eminently to be desired. " But " (he adds) " I will 
'take the boldness to add.. .Ma/ the Kin^s {wholesale'] 

* suspending of laws strikes at the root of this whoU 

* government and subverts it quite " ; for though " the 
^executive power of the Law is entirely in the King ; and 
' the Law. ..has... made it unlawful upon any pretence what- 

* soever to resist \it\^\_yet'\ the Legislative power is not so 
^entirely in the King.... No law can be either made^ 
'repealed, or which is all one^ suspended^ but by... consent 
' [of Parliament^ And since ''the essence of all government 
' consists in the subjects of the legislative authority " the 
'placing this legislaiive power singly in the King is 
'a subversion of this whole government.'' To occasional 

acts of executive violence or injustice "all Princes" are 

* subject "; and since the facts may be uncertain, or the law 
doubtful, and public tranquillity is more important " than 

*any private oppressions" the ''peace of mankind were 
'very ill secured, if it were not unlawful to resist... any 
' ill-administrations. . . . But the total subversion of a govem- 

* ment being so contrary to the trust that is given to the 
' Prince... will put men upon uneasy and dangerous 
' inquiries, which will turn little to the advantag;e of those 

* who are driving matters to such a doubtful and desperate 

232 He is naturalized in Holland [ 

" issue." In reading this, we seem to look upon a human 
soul, tossed by the struggle between old dogmas and new 
convictions. Burnet has indeed moved far from the pure 

jdoctrines of_ Easgiys,, fikedu^e ; yet strives tcT^pefStfade 
/Kimseir that he holds their essence still. In fact he 
hesitated for some litde time ere he entrusted (even 
anonymously) such language to the press. 

The exact month of its appearance is not known, so we 
cannot tell whether it did, or did not, spur the English 
Government to a fresh act of hostility. The news of his 
impending marriage with a Dutch heiress had reached 
England ; and in hopes of breaking off the match '^ The 
" King," says Burnet, *• writ himself to Scodand ordering his 
^ advocate to prosecute me ; and his Advocate, having no 
'' matter against me, threw together such things as he could 
** fancy mi^ht be true." This sarcasm hits off very neatiy the 
terms of tne ** Criminal Letters " against him which issued 
at Edinburgh, April ^, 1687, with a citation to June 27. 
The actual charge was that of intercourse with escaped 
traitors, notably with Argyll; the dates 1681 and 1685 
being as it were alternatively offered. " I had," says 
Burnet, ** the news [that this impended] before the King's 
** envoy had it ; and it came to me just the night before 
" I was to be contracted." 

The young lady however showed a fine spirit. " I was " 
(says Burnet) "so happy in her temper that she was not 
"frighted, on the contrary, that brought our marriage on 
**the sooner." Meanwhile Judge Haufewyn ''proposed an 
" expedient of which the Prince approved, which was that 
" the next morning I should petition the States of Holland 
"to be naturalized. This was so reasonable, and seemed 
" to be so much of a piece with my contract that was to 
" be signed in the afternoon that it passed without 
** opposition ; for it was not known that there was any 
" other design in it ; and by this means I passed under 
"the protection of the States." 

This unwelcome intelligence Burnet communicated to 
the English Secretary of State, in a letter dated May 10 
(N.S. i^JL A dignified epistle, with an underlying strain 
of polite insolence, its professions are not quite in accord 
with the tone of the above-mentioned Reflections. Burnet 

i687] His second marriage 233 

had not yet received full particulars of the charge ; 
but he could with justice repel it in toto. Few, he adds 
**have writ more and preached oftener against all sorts 
" of treasonable doctrines and practices than myself." He 
had not been in Scotland for thirteen years ; and during the 
last five '' I have not so much as mentioned the commonest 
*' news in any letter [sent thither]....! went out of England, 
''by his Majesty's approbation; and I have stayed out 
*'of it, because his Majesty expressed his dislike of my 
"returning...." Naturalized on the eve of marriage, 
"during my stay here, my allegiance is translated from 
" his Majesty to the Sovereignty of this province ; yet 
" / will never depart from the pro/aundest respect to his 
^^ sacred person^ and duty to his Government'^ Nor has 
he, since his "coming into these parts," seen "any one 
"person... that is outlawed for treason." His "engage- 
" ments " rather than personal fear preclude his responding 
to the summons : '' I can very easily part with a small 
" estate and with a life of which I have been long weary;"^ 
If condemned in absence, however, he must puhlishf for his \^^ 
own vindication, an apology pro vita sua, covering the ■ 
events of the last twenty years, and containing (he hints) 
matter scarcely calculated for the Royal ear. This of 
course alludes to his " secret" memoirs. 

A fortnight after the date of this irritating epistle 
Burnet was married His meditations on the occasion 
thank Heaven for the protection which has brought him 
so far on his way. He asserts the purity of his motives. 
" Thou that knowest all things, knowest that neither the 
" follies nor heats of nature, nor the levities of a wandering 
"fancy, nor... the wealth... that accompanies the person 
'determined me.... It was somewhat of thy image that 
** I discerned in the person herself, and the characters of 
"thy Providence that were so apparently obvious in the 
"progress of it" He prays the "God of love" for that 
"calm of mind, that union of thoughts, and that tender 
" concern in one another, and chiefly in one another's soul " 
which conduce to spiritual welfare; for the rest, let God 

The details of the Citation were now to hand ; and two 
days later (May 17 O.S.) Burnet forwarded, under cover 

234 Burnet is outlawed [ 

to the Secretary, a detailed answer addressed to the English 
King. In these documents he mentions, inter alia, that, 
since his arrival at the Hague, he had anathematized 
through an entire sermon ** treasonable doctrines and 

C-^* practices*" He announces his intention of printing the 
corre^lQIldejQceL.- within the fortnight, unless proceedings 
should be stayed ; and argues that his assassination, under 
^ sentence of outlawry, would bring the guilt of his blood 
on the head of its promoters. 

As a matter of fact the prosecution was let fall ; but as, 
in the following June, a fresh suit was initiated (on the 
plea of a traitorous transfer of allegiance, and a threat to 
- reveal Roy al Se crets), Burnet, on June 27 O.S. sent his 
papers to thejpress. In his preface he complained that 
since it is "yet too early to set on a persecution... for... 
"religion,... crimes against the State must be pretended." 
The English Envoy, in a memorial to the States of 
Holland, remonstrated against language which implied 
the Royal sanction upon schemes of assassination. Yet 
by a clumsy admission that Burnet might be lawfully 
arrested **in what manner soever," he rather gave away 
his cause. The hint was significant, and Burnet, during 
the month of July, drew up a kind of spiritual " Will and 
" Testament " now unfortunately lost. 

On August 9 O.S., the date for which he was cited, 
he of course failed to appear ; but sentence of outlawry 
was deferred. This the French Ambassador at the Hague 
thought a sign of great weakness. Burnet, after the delay 
had lasted some weeks, traced in it a desire "to see if the 
** terror of it would bring me to make submission. And 
^ to frighten me the more " ^he adds), ** the English Envoy 
" has talked with several of nis spies of a design he had to 
** carry me away ; though the methods that he proposed 
^ were so ridiculous, and he opened it to so many persons 
**that all came to my knowledge.... I have taken my own 
**way, and have not entered into any state of treaty, 
•* though my friends in London have writ me word that 
** several overtures have been made to reconcile me to 
"the Court." On August 29 (September 8) his sentence 
was actually pronounced. It put Burnet out of the King's 
protection ; entailed the (immediate) forfeiture of personal 

1687-8] His critical situation 235 

estate ; and (at a year s notice) the confiscation of all life 
interest in real estate. 

" I hear now," writes Burnet, " sentence is past ; and 
** whether upon this any of the brutal Irish that are here 
** in the service will endeavour to merit at the King s hands 
•*by destroying me, I do not know nor am I much con- 
** cerned ; for I am weary of life and of the world. So alt 
** my apprehensions are that they may make an attempt upon 
^ me that shall go only half way, and of all things in the 
** world an operation of surgery is that which I apprehend 
**the most.... I resign myself up entirely to that providence 
^ which has hitherto watched over me with such an indulgent 
**care that what my enemies have designed against me^ 
• as the greatest mischief they could do me by driving me 
^out of England, has produced the happiest alteration in 
**the course of my life that could have befallen me, and 
**that which gives me the perfectest quiet and content*' 
He evidently alludes to his marriage. 

He now gave (so rumour declared) a farewell dinner 
to some friends ; of whom he took solemn leave, as one 
under the shadow of death, with whom they must no 
longer converse. Enemies subsequently ridiculed these 
heroics ; in which we may perhaps trace the histrionic 
touch proper to the orator. But Burnet had seen Warriston, 
under a similar sentence, dragged from the Continent to 
a Scottish scaffold. His cousin Jerviswood, moreover, 
three years before, had suffered at Edinburgh under 
exceptionable cruel circumstances. He may be pardoned 
therefore for taking a more serious view of his position 
than did his "arm chair" critics. 

There is indeed no possibility of doubting the reality 
of his danger. During the winter of 1688 the English 
Envoy returned twice to the charge with a demand for his 
extradition, and when, after Burnet had been examined by 
the States, the demand was refused, "the King," says 
Burnet, "took the matter very ill, and said it was an 
** affront to him, and a just cause of war." Swift, in one 
of the rude notes which he appended to Burnet's History, 
stigmatized this story as the dream of a "vain fop." It is 
certain, however, that the King (who spoke bitterly of 
Burnet as a "pernicious man," whom "no man knew... 

236 fVatTiings received by him [ 

'"so well as himself") was greatly incensed at the check; 
and the despatches of the various Ambassadors to the 
Court of Whitehall shew that language as strong as that 
ridiculed by Swift was actually employed by the English 
King. More subtle tactics were however in contemplation. 
On December 30 (January 9), Louis XIV, presumably 
irritated by Burnet's pro- Huguenot attitude, wrote to his 
Ambassador in London. He promised facilities to anyone, 
who having kidnapped Burnet, should wish to convey him 
into England by way of France. 

Some hint of these intrigues seems to have got abroad ; 
and Burnet's friends, including Stillingfleet and Halifax, 
were greatly alarmed. His cousin and former pupil, James 
Johnston (himself a son of the ill-fated Warriston), wrote 
in February, from London, to his correspondents at the 
Hague ; blaming Burnet for his presumptuous indifference 
and protesting that his vanity of shewing his courage only 
betrays his folly. Another warning reached Burnet from a 
very surprising quarter. The Lord Chancellor Jeffreys 
had been consulted by the King, as to what further steps 
were possible. Jeffreys by his own account responded, 
that since the States had given Burnet their protection, 
he did not see what more could be done. The King seemed 
annoyed ; and Jeffreys (why, does not appear) gave Burnet 
an account of the incident No less startling was the 
channel of the message. It was sent (says Burnet's Memoirs) 
through "a friend" of his own. This friend, in the 
History, becomes the notorious Kirke ; whose brutalities 
after Sedgmoor Burnet, in a previous passage of these very 
Memoirs, had justly reprobated. 

Moreover on March ^ Burnet received (from a reput- 
able and well-informed source, to which Johnston was 
privy), an anonymous hint that an unsigned order for ;^3000 
to the person who should abduct him had been seen lying 
in the Secretary's office at Whitehall. ** I thank God," 
wrote Burnet in his Memoirs on receiving the letter, " this 
** has given me no sort of disorder ; it has obliged me to use 
'' a little more than ordinary caution ; and that is all 
^*the effect it has had. I offer myself up to God and... 
*'have settled all things that related to me as if I f[ace]d 
^' present death ; but with all this I must add to the praise 

1687-8] Situation at the end of 1687^ 237 

" of true Christianity and of philosophy that I never possessed 
*' myself during my whole life in a more pleasant and clearer 
** cheerfulness of spirit." 

And yet, the circumstances were such as might well 
have disturbed his serenity ; for in March, 1688, his first-born 
child saw the light It was a son, who received the naiiie^ 
of William ; and for whom the Prince and Princess (to our \ 
envoy's disgust) assumed, by proxy, the responsibilities ofj 

An event, however, so important to his affectionate 
nature finds no place in his Memoirs. The period thus 
momentous to himself had been one of public crisis ; and 
the crisis was becoming more acute. The year 1687 from 
April to October had been occupied by the dramatic 
struggle between James and the Fellows of Magdalen. 
Burnet seems to have written to the Princess, giving it as 
his judgment that the King's aggression on the freehold of 
the Fellows did not justify forcible resistance. At the same 
time, however, he drew up a s^nificant paper on the 
'' Measures of Submission," which in an expanded form we 
shall meet later on. Meanwhile the determination of the 
Prince and Princess to uphold the Tests had been empha- 
sized in the Fagel-Stewart correspondence, to which Burnet, 
as translator, had been privy ; and he did not ignore the 
crucial importance of the episode. " I give the account of 
"this negotiation the more particularly " (say his Memoirs 
at the close of 1687) "both because I am certainly 
" informed of it by messages which the Prince sends me, 
" and because this is like to be the cause of a rupture that 
"may have great consequences. France apprehends the 
" Prince's being on the throne of England above all things ; 
"so they will certainly push on the King,. .to embroil 
"matters both in England, and between the King and 
" Prince.. ..On the other hand, the extremity to which the 
•' King has driven matters will throw the nation into great 
" confusions ; which it will be very hard to manage. For 
"either the nation will lose heart, and then a multitude 
" will become the feeblest thing in the world ; or if the 
" vigour of the subjects is still kept up, it will be hard to 
" govern this, and to keep it from breaJcing out upon great 
" provocations ; chiefly if a force is put upon the elections 

238 The Queen's expectations discussed [ch. vi 

*'of parliament men, which strikes at all. And if there 
^* should be a commotion, or if the violence of the Irish 
" should create a disorder in that island, the Prince will be 
^' reduced to great difficulties ; the ties of nature will make 
^'it hard for him to head a rising against his father-in-law ; 
^* but on the other hand, if the King's ill-conduct throws the 
** nation into such a violent fermentation, then a rebellion 
'' that prospers will turn into a commonwealth ; and if it is 
*' subdued, it will put all things in the King's hands. . . .[Where] 
'''nature and honour, religion and interest all pull different 
" ways it will not be easy to come to a resolution. A war 
*' at home... will naturally bring over a French army, in whose 
** hands the King will put such places as are in his power. 
**And thus we are like to become a scene of blood and 
*^ horror again ; and the outrageous counsels of a few 
" priests... are like to bring England again to the very brink 
**of the precipice, and very near its ruin. It is true" (he 
adds) ** there is a report now generally believed to be true, 
"which may change the whole scene. It is said that the 
^* Queen is with child. This piece of news is so fit for their 
*' affairs at present that this tempts many to doubt of it. 
" Yet it seems to be true ; and if [it] proves in conclusion 
" such as they desire" {i.e. a son) "it will extremely feed the 
^'superstition of the party; for besides the seasonableness 
" of it, •••they give out that this conception was the effect of a 
^' vow.... And indeed of the Queen that brought a great many 
■"children in the freshness of her youth... which were all so 
" unhealthy that they died quickly, should now, after so much 
""sickness... bear a healthy son, it would look on all hands 
"as a very particular stroke of providence, that was almost 
"a miracle. ... But it must be considered that I am out of 
■" England so that I now see things by other men's eyes." 

At the same time, about the beginning of the year 1688, 
the curious controversial correspondence between James 
and his daughter Mary, to which Burnet was privy, raised 
to the highest point his respect for the Princess's capacity ; it 
marked the last confidential intercourse between father and 

Meanwhile Burnet's pen was active as ever. His 
political tracts were marked by an increasing^acedjlty. This 
culminated in April, 1688, witE a retort to Parliamentum 

1 688] He is ignorant of RusseWs mission 22f) 

Pacificum, a pamphlet which had spared neither "Their 
** High Mightinesses" the States- General nor himself. 
Burnet's Reflections, which had a wide cir culation, were 
described ' by'^Tames II as **the most seditious" he had 
"ever jet wrjtj'; and bookseners guilty of sellings them were 
l>5Si3 ^xHlLtG Keep the peace. The tract is indeed 
Teinarkable for bland exasperating irony. " Peace," says 
our sarcastic divine, " is a very desirable thing ; yet every 
" state that is peaceable is not blindly to be courted. An 
"apoplexy is the most peaceable state in which a man's 
"body can be laid: yet few would desire to pacify the 
" humours of their body at that rate. An implicit faith 
"and absolute slavery are the most peaceable things that 
"can be; yet we confess we have no mind to try so 
"dangerous an experiment" [etc. etc. etc.]. 

But Burnet's activity was mainly among surface eddies. 
He knew little of the practical under-currents which were 
settling the destinies of his nation. Very early in May 
1688 N.S., for instance, (ostensibly on a visit to a sister), 
Mr Russell, a cousin of Lord Russell's, repaired to the 
Hague. In Burnet's contemporary Memoirs this journey 
is not even mentioned ; and at the time he was certainly 
ignorant of the facts that Russell bore pressing instances 
from the heads of the English Malcontents ; that these 
urged the Prince's immediate intervention ; and that the 
Prince positively demanded, as an indispensable prelimi- 
nary, a written invitation from the leaders. Three years 
later, however, Burnet left it on record that Russell had 
dropped some hints to him, the terms of which remain 
obscure. They certainly presupposed the possibility of the 
Prince's forcible intervention. For Burnet represents him- 
self as responding, that affairs on the Continent being 
favourable, he "believed they might depend upon the 
" Prince being able to come over by the end of the year." 
Possibly however this merely contemplated the then obvious 
probability of war between England and the States. 

The events of the next few weeks in England were 
dramatically startling* On May 7 N.S. {Le, we presume 
during Russell's absence at the Hague) there had issued the 
second Declaration of Indulgence. On May 28 N.S. seven 
of the Bishops refused to sanction its publication ; on June 

240 Burnet on the birth of the Pretender [ch. vi 

18 N.S. they were committed to the Tower. Two days 
later the birth of a son and heir was unexpectedly announced 
at St James's ; and on July 10 N.S. the seven Bishops, tried at 
the King's Bench for a seditious libel, were acquitted amid 
thunderous applause. Among the boisterous rejoicings of 
the following night, few noticed the unostentatious meeting 
held at Lord Shrewsbury's town house; after which Mr 
Herbert, disguised as a sailor, left for the Continent. 

As respects the advent of a Royal Heir, whose birth 
indefinitely postponed a Protestant succession, Burnet, it is 
clear, honestly shared the prevalent suspicions of fraud. No 
exception can be taken to the version of the affair included 
by Burnet in his Memoirs of September following ; it is a 
straightforward record of information received, in which 
stress is naturally laid on suspicious detail. 

And he had special means of information which he 
regarded as specially important ; he was privy to the reports 
received by Princess Mary from her sister, Princess Anne. 
These reports have been severely, but we think unjustly, 
criticised. The rumours were insistent ; the issues at stake 
enormous ; the Princess Anne, who had not been present, 
was dependent on hearsay ; and interested politicians had an 
object in biassing a spirit naturally docile. Nor can any 
one deny that there was prima facie cause for suspicion. 
The pressing motives for imposture ; the ascendancy of Jesuits 
at the Court ; the state of the Queen's health ; the imprudent 
exultation of the Papists ; the unexpected coincidence of the 
birth with the absence of the Princess ; and the ostentatious 
indifference of the Royal Pair to the satisfaction of public 
opinion gave ground for " honest doubt" Considering the 
throngs of both sexes whose presence custom required 
when a Royal Heir saw the light, it seems still almost 
incredible that no one was summoned who could be 
supposed to represent the interests of the dispossessed 

This aspect of the case particularly impressed Burnet ; 
who published anonymously, during July or August, a 
curious account of the stringent safeguards against fraud, by 
which the Roman Law, in the interest of presumptive heirs, 
surrounded the advent of a posthumous child. 

In the affair of the Bishops' trial, two things arrested 

i688] He advocates an armed descent 241 

his attention : the blow dealt by the verdict to an unlimited 
dispensing power ; and the intense excitement the matter 
had caused in England. 

Such was Burnet s attitude when, on July 16 N.S., Mr 
Herbert reached the Hague ; bearing in secret with him a 
momentous document signed with seven cyphers. Almost 
immediately afterwards Burnet was informed, by whom does 
not appear, that the Prince designed a forcible invasion of 
England, in the interests of English discontent ; and that 
"some" (it should have been **one") of the '* Bishops," 
thought the Prince " had a just cause of making a war on 
-the King." 

With this view, our one-time advocate of Passive 
Obedience found himself in hearty concurrence. '* It was 
"plain" (say his contemporary Memoirs) **that the King 
'* was now setting about the total subversion of the Govem- 
**ment"; and that he hoped to effect this by means of a 
servile Parliament, for which the Committee which mani- 
pulated the borough constituencies was rapidly paving the 
way. Thenceforward, with thorough zest, did Burnet 
embrace the Prince's cause ; believing himself to discern, 
in the favourable progress of events, the hand of an 
approving Providence. 

In justice to Burnet's detractors we must point out how 
unfortunate for Burnet's reputation, on this as on other 
occasions, was the date of his avowed conversion. For 
the train of public aggression, which had led up to the 
crisis, coincided with a train of personal injuries, which had 
left Burnet an outlaw with a price upon his head. On 
Lord Russell at the foot of the scaffold he could urge (cried 
his enemies) the doctrine of non-resistance ; but personal 
danger (so they argued) provoked his own summary 
recantation. Such were the taunts of the conscientious "de 
** Jure" men ; and such were to some extent the sentiments 
of Halifax himself, who still laboured for a constitutional 
solution and who could not forget the Burnet of 1683. 

This interpretation, none the less, was as false as it was 
natural. A tight boot, of course, affects our estimate of the 
shoemaker. But in the main, the process of Burnet's con- 
version (a lengthy and gradual proceeding) had been due to 
the drastic teaching of public events. 

B. 16 

242 His changed standpoint [ch. vi 

Burnet, however, did his best to deprive himself of 
this line of defence. Vehemently he asserted that his 
views in their continuity had undergone no modification. 
*' I have ever," he says, in a second self-vindicatory answer 
to the pamphlet Parliamentum Pacificum, "gone by the 
** principles in which I was bred... under a father that 
** from first to last adhered to the King's cause... but was 
*' as much an enemy to arbitrary power as he was to 
•'rebellion....! went no further than to assert an obedience 
•' and submission according to law, when I was employed 
*' to assert the laws of Scotland against those who studied 
" to overturn them." This is mere special pleading. His 
later views were no doubt the expansion of a germ latent 
in his earliest speculations. Even the Vindication of .. .the 
Church and State of Scotland had admitted that if a king 
"be furious," if he ** desert his right," if he "expose his 
*' kingdoms to the fury of others... the abuse is such that it 
" tends to a total subversion"; and the King may be reputed 
under a phrensy, "since no man is capable" [of such policy] 
" till he be under some lesion of his mind." In such 
circumstances "the states of the land are to be the 
"administrators of the power, till he recover himself." In 
other words, the community is allowed to safeguard itself 
against the cruelty or caprice of a ruler actually insane. 
But James II was certainly compos mentis ; and it was a 
perverse and premature Hegelianism on Burnet's part to 
" annihilate difference " and regard his undeveloped views 
as equivalent to their later developments. 

Yet the extent of Burnet's transformation must not be 

exaggerated. He was never in any sense what we call 

^ democrat, or even a " radical reformer." The strong and 

/ consistent supporter of Monarchy, " republican " innovation 

vjie abhorred. Nothing but a "total subversion" could 

for him legitimate revolt ; and his views on " total sub- 

" version " underwent no further evolution. 

Meanwhile, his contemporaneous knowledge as to the 
course of the Prince's intrigues remained of the vaguest. 
He knew nothing till long afterwards of the above-men- 
tioned cypher-signed missive, with its curiously general 
appeal for armed assistance, to be rendered in a capacity 
undefined. For his ignorance of detail he gives a 

1 688] The Prince's Declaration 243 

magnanimous reason. As a Scot, he was liable to the 
judicial torture still sanctioned by Scottish law ; and he 
desired, in case of the worst, to secure his friends against 
himself Probably however (as in 1683) the choice was 
not entirely his own, and the men who risked their necks 
in the conspiracy declined to place them at the mercy of 
one so seldom reticent We doubt if he would have been 
initiated even to the most modest extent, had not his 
literary services been in imperative request. . 

It was he who translated, and contrived so mew hat to \ 
curtail^ the rather ponderous " Declaration " prepared by j 
tHe Prince's Dutch confidant, Fagel. This announced / 
that the recent infractions upon the laws of England, 
and the doubts which hung over the Queen's supposed 
delivery, had induced the Prince, upon the invitation of 
men of all ranks, to go "over into England," and "see for 
" proper. . .remedies. . .in a parliament. . .lawfully chosen." 
The preservation of the Established Church, a compre- 
hension for such Protestant dissenters as could be com- 
prehended, and a toleration for the rest, were included 
among the Prince's expressed aspirations. 

Hereupon arose bitter discussions, prophetic of the 
bitter feuds of thirty bitter years. In an interesting 
Apology for the Church of England Burnet had recently 
charged the State, and Romanist intrigue, with the 
guilt of Caroline persecution ; and had emphasized the 
pacific sentiments towards the Protestant Non-conformists 
which recent events had evoked from the leaders of 
the Established Church. In his heart however fears 
obtruded lest the complacence thus elicited should perish 
with the crisis which gave it birth. Meanwhile the semi- 
Republican " Whigs " in Holland sought to embroil the 
Prince with the Church and " Tory " interests by inducing 
him to ignore the wrongs inflicted on the Establishment. 
These tactics (which excited Burnet's reprobation) 
were frustrated by the common sense of the English 
''Whigs"; and Burnet, in his own "Whiggish" old age, 
stigmatised the outlawed agitators with extreme severity. 
^* I saw," he says, "even in Holland the [Whig extremists] 
** were utterly against " a reconciliation between the 
Church and the Dissenters ; " they desired only a 

16 — 2 

244 ^^ Measures of Submission [ch. vi 

'* toleration, but seemed to apprehend the Church would 
V* be too secure and grow too strong " unless they could 
" keep up a party" against "the Church. I suspected," adds 
Burnet, **many of these were in their hearts enemies to the 
" Christian religion, so their views might be the enervating 
" Christianity by keeping up of parties among us." 

Burnet also warned the Prince against the Scots at the 
Hague, who, in the draught of a Scotch declaration, had 
implicitly committed the Prince to Presbyterian Church 
government How far the Prince was secretly pre-engaged 
is not known ; but he gave immediate orders to eliminate 
tl)£ compromising passage. 
^/ /^ Still more important were Burnet's pamphleteering 

VS^orts. His anonymous Enquiry into the measures of 
submission to the supreme authority^ and... the grounds 
on which it may be lawful or necessary for subjects to 
defend their religion^ lives^ and liberties^ had been 

I sketched out for the Princess as early as 1687. It was now 
t/ recast; and by the Prince's directions, several thousand 

I copies were printed for distribution by the invading 


This important paper, it must be remembered, preceded 

/by eighteen months Locke's Essay on Government. It 
^' / embodies much of the reasoning employed by Burnet in 

\ his early non-resistance speculations ; but with decisive 

\|Ualifications. The law of nature, it is urged, acknowledges 
no political subordination, save that of child to parent, 
wife to husband ; though we may contract away our 
freedom we are bom free. Self-preservation, again, is a 
natural duty ; it demands the resistance of ** violent 
** aggressors," the exaction of **just damages," and future 
safeguards from those whose aggression is past The 
power of exacting reparation is vested (by the compromise 
which originates society) in a common trustee. The 
"supreme power" is that which regulates^ not that which 
executes, the methods of reparation ; the executive in fact is 
the creature of the Legislature. The measures of obedience 
in any society are Legislative Acts, oaths and prescrip- 
tion ; but the presumption favours liberty, as the elder 
principle. The New Testament sanctifies no system, but 
preaches obedience to the powers that be. The propaga- 

i688] Burnet and the Court of Hanover 245 

tion of Christianity by farce y the forcible resistance of 
legalized persecution are by it specifically forbidden. But 
if our religion is established by law, its exercise is a branch 
of our property, and may therefore be defended. More- 
over, as our laws give the King but a share in legislation, an 
invasion upon the legislative function of Parliament may 
be resisted. But what of the Militia Act, which vests in the 
King all the force of the kingdom, and condemns opposition 
to his warrant } What of Non-resistance, the " constant 
** doctrine of the Church of England " ? Are we to hold 
such opinions as long as we are favoured by the Crown, 
and desert them when ourselves abandoned } No. Yet in 
all obligation lies hid an implicit reserve; adultery (he 
argues) can dissolve the very marriage bond. Where 
ultimate principles collide, the less must yield to the greater. 
A law condemns resistance ; but cannot in so doing 
destroy all other law ; and a king who subverts the law 
that sanctions him "ceases to be king." The most 
monarchical lawyers (so Burnet reminds us) acknowledge 
some bounds to submission. A madman is ipso facto 
incapable of reigning ; the supersession of a King of 
Portugal, on the plea of insanity, has been condoned by all 
Europe^. Burnet then summarises the encroachments of 
James upon the laws of England, and concludes with the 
suspicions of fraud attaching to the birth of a prince. j 
Meanwhile, not content with these services of the pen, 
Burnet tried his 'prentice hand at self-authorised diplomatic 
intrigue. The security of the Dutch frontiers, during 
William's intended absence, caused the Prince much con- 
cern. The Duke of Hanover, who had married the niece of 
Charles I, had been in the French interest. ** I ventured," 
says Burnet, "to send [the duchess] a message by one 
** of their court who was then at the Hague." He revealed 
the design on England ; with an indiscretion none the less 
great because it was no doubt belated. The argument 
which, fifteen years later, he represents himself as 
having used, shew that his anticipations of the future had 
run very far; and contemplated a certain supersession of 
the newly-born claimant. " If we succeeded," so ran his 
plea, "certainlv a perpetual exclusion of all papists from the 
** Crown would be enacted." And since, after the two 

246 Catnments of the Prince [ch. vi 

Princesses, and the Prince himself, Duchess Sophia was the 
nearest Protestant in the line of succession, ** I was," says 
Burnet, "very confident" the Duke's adhesion to "our 
" interests " would secure her claim. The Duchess, he says, 
received the hint with alacrity, an interpretation entirely 
negatived by her subsequent attitude ; her husband, though 
he joined the coalition, was then as ever, genuinely in- 
different to her English prospects. 

After the fact, Burnet told the Prince. ** He,** declares 
Burnet, "approved of it heartily ; but was particularly glad 
" I had done it of myself without... engaging him in it"; 
since it would look ill if England learnt he "already 
" reckoned himself so far master, as to be forming projects" 
of succession. 

A sarcasm may have underlain this retort The Prince 
had certainly not left his relations with Hanover at the 
mercy of a diplomatic amateur. Cunningham, where 
he treats of Burnet, is generally misinformed, and always 
malicious ; but on this occasion he perhaps hits the mark. 

* Dr Burnet," he sneers, " interm^dling in all people's 
' affairs seemed to think of himself as if he had the care of 
' all the Churches ; and had also been able to manage the 
'public affairs of all Europe. He told the Prince of 

* Orange that he had provided forces for the security of 
' his frontiers, and had written to the Princess Sophia on 
'that subject. The Prince replied to Burnet, in an 

* ironical manner : 'Well done ! You have provided well 
* ' for us indeed ! ' for he knew that the German troops are 
*not wont to move without ready pay; not .through the 
'persuasions of women, and much less for the tedious 
' harangues of a chaplain." 

Nor did Burnet's zeal stop here. Some weeks earlier 
he had received a hint that on the rupture of diplomatic 
relations with England he should be appointed a chaplain to 
the Prince. He therefore made the offer of his " poor person 
" to go along " with the Prince ; for, as he adds with artless 
self-importance, "havingthoughtthat it was lawful, I judged 
** it had been a very unbecoming fear in me, to have taken 
" care of mine own person when the Prince ventured his." 
Whether the Prince was pleased may be doubted ; but the 
offer could hardly be declined. In accordance however 

i688] A Meditation — intended for his last words 247") 

with the above-mentioned stipulation he was not personally 
installed as chaplain till the eve of the actual embarkation. 

In the midst of this political agitation, our indefatigable 
divine found time for ecclesiastical debate. On Sep- 
tember 10 he dated a reply to Bossuet's account of the 
dogmatic "variations" characteristic of Protestant Churches. 
For in that work Burnet's Reformation had been treated 
as the authoritative test-book of English Protestantism. 
Burnet's answer is substantially a tu qtioque ; with the 
rider that variations in an admittedly fallible Church must 
be venial, while they are fatal to the pretensions of one 
professing infallibility. Certain passages in the tract have 
an immediate significance. Thus our Erastian admits 
that Cranmer ** in opposition to the Ecclesiastical Tyranny " 
may have raised ** the power of the Civil Magistrate too 
'' highy To the charge that the Anglican acknowledges 
a lay supremacy, Burnet retorts that a lay servitude far 
heavier lies on the Gallican Church. She obeys an 
arbitrary monarch ; while under our ** legal government " 
any order not founded on law "is null of itself." 

The crisis now drew very near ; and Burnet sat down 
to compose a kind of dying testimony " intending it for my 

* last words, in case this expedition should prove either 
'unsuccessful in general or fatal to myself in my own 
'particular." He denies that he is inflamed by "the 
' injustice and violence with which the Court of England 

* had first ordered me to be judged in Scotland and then . 

* ...murdered in Holland." He repudiates the idea that he 
is " wrought on by any ambitious or covetous prospect of 

* raising my own fortunes by contributing to procure 

' a revolution in England." And he disclaims animosity"* 
against Papists as such. ** I am none of those [that] 

* aggravate matters, or that let myself be governed by the 

* spirit of a party. I love all men that love God and that 

* live well, and can make great allowances for errors...; for 

* in that I have very large notions of the goodness of that 

* God of love, whose mercies I could never limit to any 

* one form... of religion. And so I am none of those that 
'damn all Papists; for I have known many good... men 
'among them. Therefore.. .though I think their Church 
' is full of. . .pernicious [errors]. . .in. . .doctrine and worship, . . . 


248 //is final arrangements [ch. vi 

^' above all in the casuistical divinity and in the con- 
duct...of... confessions ;*..the chief ground of my abhor- 
rence of that Church is the carnal, designing, ambitious, 
"crafty, perfidious, and above all that cruel spirit that 
" reigns among them... most eminently among the Jesuits, 
" who are the pests of human society and the reproach of 
"the Christian religion; so that... I should not dread the 
" prra^ress of Mahomedanism, or the return of Paganism ... 
"as f do the authority which that society begins to have 
"in... the Popish Courts of Europe." 

He recapitulates in brief the arguments of the Enquiry-, 
and his contention that they are identical with ''all that 
" I ever writ or preached on the subject" Moreover, as 
he says, " I have gone no further but to give my opinion 
"both to the Prince of Orange and some other... persons, 
"that I looked on the thing as very lawful ...but I never 
"set myself to advise or to press it" In general " He 
^'that knows all things knows... that I have made it the 
" business of my whole life, though in the midst of many 
"and great imperfections" to walk worthily before Him. 
"And as I am perfectly assured... of the truth of the 
" Christian and of the Protestant religion, so those matters 
" are so dear to me that if I had a thousand lives I would 
"venture them all with joy in this cause.... And I must 
" sincerely protest to the world that all the true joys that 
" I have ever known have flowed from [religion], as all the 
" sorrows of my life have flowed from my strayings out of 
" that way.... I have ever hated and despised superstition of 
'' all sorts ; and have found a great deal of it even among 
" those that pretend to be the farthest from it ; nor could I 
"ever consider Religion... but as it furnished me with... 
"principles... raising me to a constant love to God and my 
" neighbour ; and a continual desire of doing all the good 
" that was possible." 

He leaves directions, in the event of his death, for the 
posthumous publication of certain mss. These include 
the unfinished Essays on Morality and Religion ; about 
200 MS. sermons ; and the Secret //istory. His other 
MSS. he reserves for his son, who, he hopes, may take 

" I continue..." he adds, "to love all my [many] friends... 

i688] He brings his Memoirs up to date 249 \ 

*' for... I have lived a life of friendships.... No man ever had 
*' greater reasons to love a wife most tenderly than myself 
** ...[and] I will carry with me to the last moment of my 
" life the entirest affections for her... and I do most humbly 
"[and confidently] commend her, and my son, and what 
"she goes with, to the blessings of the God of my life... 
** the care and kindness of... my friends." 

He concludes with an impassioned dedication of himself 
to God. "If thou raises me to any eminent post in thy*l 
" Church I will study to be an example of humility...will 
" withdraw as much as may be from all Courts and secular 
" affairs, and will consecrate myself to the work of t he [ 
" Gospel [and] to the healing of our breaches." He 
prostrates nimself in the dust as unworthy of the meanest 
ofHce ; "let thy name be glorified and... this great under- 
" taking succeed " while the shame that is his due falls on 
him that prays. Perchance however sins (national or 
private) will call upon the enterprise a divine chastisement. 
" If thou calls me to suffer, support and lead me. . .through the 
" Valley of the Shadow of Death; for [if] thou art with me 
" I fear nothing that devils can contrive or... men exercise 
" against me. Bring me at last where thou art, O my God 
"and my all; for thither am I continually aspiring.... 
"Amen. Amen." 

It only remained to complete, up to the current date, 
his Secret History ; and the embarkation of the troops had 
actually begun ere Burnet had laid down his pen. 

"And now" (he concludes) "within a week or two... one 
"of the greatest designs... undertaken for many ages [will 
"be] brought... near a point... [It] is as just as it is great, 
" and the Prince as far as it is possible to see into a man's 
" heart, goes into it with great and noble intentions." He 
seems pre-ordained for the doing of marvels ; if he succeed, 
and "manage" the English "as dexterously as he hath 
" hitherto done the Dutch, he will be the arbiter of all 
" Europe, and will very quickly bring Lewis the Great to 
" a much humbler posture ; and will acquire a much juster 
" right to the title of Great... But... I am an historian, not 
" a prophet ; therefore I do now interrupt the thread of 
"this history. Whether I shall live... to carry it on... is 
" only known to that God to whom I most humbly resign 

250 The expedition sails [ch. vi 

" myself. ... Thus I conclude at the Hague the third of 
" October [1688]." 

He had yet to undergo a final interview with the 
Princess; the first for more than two years. She was 
" solemn " with " a great load on her spirits," but a con- 
science at rest In the long talk which ensued Burnet 
spoke confidently of success ; and hinted that any want 
of harmony between the Princely couple would ruin all. 
The Princess reproved these fears ; all attempts at intrigue 
should be nipped by her in the bud. 

On October 29 N.S. the gteat expedition sailed. 



Whether Burnet s estimate of his own place in the 
armada entirely tallied with that of its promoters lies open 
to question. Deference to his simple self-importance may 
have prompted the request that he should " manage " the 
uncertain temper and certain pride of the Prince's English 
Admiral, Herbert. The letters which Burnet accordingly 
addressed to that dissolute irascible seaman have been 
preserved ; and a quainter medley of personal excitement, 
the newsmonger s zeal, and perfunctory solicitude for the 
spiritual interests of the recipient, it would be difficult 
to conceive. The first dates from the Hague, after 
a celebrated storm had beaten back the fleet It reports 
to Herbert (who remained on the flag-ship) rumours of 
the hurried concessions with which the King was fain to 
propitiate the English nation. "This," says Burnet (one 
of the thirteen excepted from amnesty), "must complete 
"his ruin and shew the meanness of his soul... softness 
"which comes so late can,..but*..make him cheaper." 

On November ^ "with the evening tide" the fleet 
restarted ; Burnet as a "domestic" of the Prince being in 
the first vessel. The wind proved very fair ; and on the 
evening of the fourth day Mr Russell and his pilot 
boarded the leading ship. Orders were given to bring 
the squadron short of Dartmouth. But with dawn it 
grew only too clear that the fleet had oversailed the 
mark ; and Russell, in despair, bade Burnet " go to his 
"prayers." At that moment the wind veered; and four 
hours later the fleet rode safely within Tor Bay. 

With characteristic promptitude Burnet sought the 
Prince. He found him "cheerfuUer than ordinary." The 


252 The voyage and the landing [ch. vii 

doctrine of absolute decrees, the keystone of the Prince s 
philosophy, had been argued between them at the Hague ; 
and the Prince now " took " Burnet ** heartily by the hand," 
and ** asked me" (says the divine) "if I would not now 
believe predestination ? " *' I told him/* adds Burnet, 
I would never forget the Providence of God which 
had appeared so signally on this occasion." The 
omens seemed indeed favourable- It was the fifth of 
November O.S. ; the anniversary doubly auspicious ; 
the weather phenomenally mild. Hardly was the landing 
completed, two days later, ere the wind veered again ; 
a hurricane drove the fleet of James to shelter in Ports- 
mouth Harbour. "I never," says Burnet, "found a 
^disposition to superstition in my temper. I was rather 
^ inclined to be philosophical " [jLe. to explain things 
scientifically) '^...yet I must confess that this strange 
^ordering of the winds and seasons... could not but make 
*^deep impressions on me." 

The expedition now proceeded, in excellent spirits, 
towards the capital of the West. On November 8 an 
advanced guard entered Exeter ; and Burnet accompanied 

♦ it He was charged to conciliate the clergy, to whom 
the Bishop and Dean had set the example of flight; and 
to arrange for a service of Thanksgiving, to take place 
on the arriving of the army. His reception was not 
encouraging ; the Chapter declined to attend. Jacobites, 
with allowable hyperbole, represent him as requisitioning, (at 

♦ the point, so to speak, of the bayonet), the services of a Minor 
Canon ; and tell a story, which, if not true, deserves to be 
so, of that dignitary's subsequent revenge. The service 
however took place, with marked omission of the prayer 
for the Prince of Wales. At the close Burnet (who had 
preached on the last verse of the 107th Psalm) read out 

♦ the Prince's Declaration. The choir stampeded ; but 
Burnet's " God save the Prince of Orange " evoked 
fervent response from the remaining congregation. 

So far the expedition, if unopposed, was also scantily 

reinforced. By November 16, however, when Burnet 

again wrote to Herbert, he could boast some important 

accessions. ** We begin," he adds, " to work a little on the 

' ** clergy ; for they are now promoting a petition for a free 

i688] Burnet reviews the evidence as to the child 253 • 

" Parliament, which is understood to be a declaring for us." 
In short, he jubilantly maintains "everything goes as well 
''as our hearts could wish." 

Meanwhile his pen was not idle. To him was entrusted 
the draught of the famous Association, which bound the 
revolted chiefs to a reciprocal fidelity ; bidding them revenge 
their commander if murdered, and uphold, in all events^ 
liberty and religion. On November W moreover, we find 
Burnet characteristically regretting the want of a printing • 1 ." 
press ; since, as he puts it, " the world is so made that y' 
**it believes nothing but what it sees in print." His -^ 
Reflections on the Prince's Declaration, though composed 
at Exeter, must have been consequently printed elsewhere. ♦ 

In these Reflections Burnet publicly ridicules the 
Kings tardy reversal of his previous policy. In especial 
he satirizes the belated attempt to satisfy the nation, by 
the publication of formal evidence, as to the parentage of 
the young Prince. 

His attitude on this head drew down upon Burnet the ^ 
frequent and deserved reprobation of Jacobite writers^ 
The account of the event, which Burnet, ere leaving 
Holland, had incorporated in his Memoirs, is, as we have 
already pointed out, a candid relation of circumstances 
really suspicious. The evidence just published however 
had placed the episode in a different light It was now 
sworn by competent witnesses, several undoubtedly 
Protestant, that authorized hopes had been formed ; 
and by others, as competent, if somewhat less dis- 
interested, that the Queen had been delivered of a son. 
A credulous obstinacy might still demur to evidence some 
of which emanated from quarters rather suspect To the 
trained intelligence of Burnet however, who, in the light 
of his own recent elevation to the honours of paternity^ 
had closely scrutinized the depositions, these should have 
proved conclusive. But Burnet's new political convictions 
were not so secure that they could dispense with subsidiary 
justification. We are not edified by the persistence which 
clings to an exploded legend ; by the petty subterfuge 
which wriggles beneath unwelcome testimony ; by the 
credulity which swallows the most egregious of old wives' 
tales; including those collected by the learned, but not 

254 The Treaty of Hungerford [ch. vii 

very judicious prelate, Bishop Lloyd of St Asaph's. Like 
a lawyer who alternates the pleas of innocence and justifi- 
cation, Burnet hovers between the charges of a complete 
and a supplementary fraud ; and such disingenuity 
becomes ludicrous, when, as in the Historyy these pleas 
dovetail one into another. Swift is almost justified in his 
cruel sarcasm that, on Burnet's shewing, three successive 
infants had been palmed on an expectant nation. 

In the same paper Burnet repudiates, with apparent 
indignation, two hostile charges: L That the Dutch 
troops will be retained till after a Session; IL That the 
Prince aspires to be King, 

Adherents now came in fast, and the Prince was 
slowly advancing. Writing on November 29 O.S. from 
Sherborne, Burnet announces that the King's favourite. 
Lord Churchill, and his Majesty's son-in-law. Prince. 
George, have repaired to the Prince's camp. The 
treachery of Churchill shewed peculiarly ugly features ; 
and the evidence suggests that Burnet was thoroughly 

To James the blow proved stunning ; he knew not 
where to turn ; his Court honeycombed with disaffection, 
further resistance seemed futile. 

The invaders next paused at Salisbury, where the 
contemptuous gesture with which Burnet rose from his 
knees in the Cathedral when the prayer for the King was 
read, occasioned bitter comment ; and, on the ninth of 
December O.S., the Prince reached Hungerford. 

Here the crisis occurred ; for James, driven to bay, at 
length offered to treat These overtures were certainly 
deceptive ; his hand had merely been forced by the 
pressure of opinion around, Moderates and " Tories " 
included ; and he had revenged himself by conferring upon 
Halifax the onus of a delusive negotiation. The latter well 
knew that the Franco-Jesuit interest was urging the King 
to flight ; and desirous, no doubt, to frustrate these fatal 
counsels, determined to **pump" Burnet ** Halifax," says 
Burnet, ** desired earnestly to speak with me in private ; 
** but when I asked the Prince's order, he forbid me to do 
^*it Yet in the crowd [Halifax] asked me (but so as 
*** nobody perceived it) whether we had a mind to have the 

1688] The Desertion 255 

King in our hands or to let him go. I answered, nothing 
could be so happy as to let him go, if he had a mind to it" 
Halifax knew enough ; but the Prince, to whom Burnet 
reported the incident, did not disallow his answer. 

In the event, articles were actually concerted between 
the Commissioners and the Prince ; and preliminaries 
arranged for the meeting of a free Parliament, which 
both James and William should attend. The Com- 
missioners despatched an express to London to inform 
the King of their success, and themselves followed close 
upon it. 

The Prince, in the expected interval, determined to 
visit Oxford, which had sent him a congratulatory address. 
At Abingdon, however, rumours informed him that the 
King had fled the country. The report seemed incredible, 
till confirmed by express from the Commissioners. 

From that moment the ball was at the Prince's foot 
Turning to Burnet he exclaimed (to use Burnet's language) 
that "though I was not much disposed to believe King 
"Charles a prophet, yet the last time he had seen him... 
"he had... said... if [his brother] were once a King he would 
"never... hold it owt four years'' It was three years and 
a little over ten months since James had ascended the 
throne amid general acclamation. 

To Burnet the event brought mingled exultation and 
relief. " Desertion " of a kingdom, even among ultra- 
Royalists, had always entailed the abrogation of royal 
functions ; and had been specifically adduced in this con- 
nection by Burnet's early Vindication, Scruples seemed 
to him annihilated as by a providential hand. 

Anarchy, in fact, would have certainly followed the 
King's evasion of his duties had not an opportune meeting 
of Peers been fixed for the ensuing day. This body, of 
which Halifax became the leading spirit, grasped with 
admirable promptitude the abandoned reins of government 
It offered to co-operate with the Prince in arrangements 
for a free Parliament ; while the City, more impetuous, 
formally invited him to London. As the roads swarmed 
with soldiers, deliberately disbanded by James, William 
however could not outmarch his army. It was not till 
December 14 that he reached Windsor ; and there, on the 
following morning the crucial blow feUL 

256 The Return [crvii 

Burnet rose habitually betimes. He was perhaps the 
only person astir, when, "very early," two gendemen 
arrived post-haste at the gates of Windsor Castle. They 
were from Feversham in Kent ; one was named Napleton, 
and their business appeared urgent. Being " addressed '* 
to Burnet, they brought him starding news. The fugitive 
King, on the verge of escape, had been arrested, not 
without indignity, by fishermen of the vicinity ; they 
enquired the Prince's pleasure. "I," says Burnet, "was 
" affected with this dismal reverse of the fortune of a great 
" Prince more than I think fit to express.*' — " He wept 
"like any crocodile," sneers the Jacobite Hickes, who claims 
(at one remove) the authority of Napleton himself. "And 
"pray Mr Napleton, said he, still wiping his eyes, carry 
" my duty to the King, and let him know my concern for 
"him." But the political results of the arrest soon rushed 
into his mind ; the King (whatever his intentions) had not 
carried his " desertion " into effect " Why," he impetuously 
exclaimed, " did you not let the King go } " — " To which," 
says Hickes, "Mr Napleton made answer, * Sir, we could 
"* not govern the rabble, and if the King had offered to 
" * go they would have torn him in pieces. " Twice after, 
says Hickes, did the same despairing enquiry evoke the 
same answer, which was the third time given with some 
emotion. "JEh but, Mr Napleton, saith he again, you 
"should have let him go"; Le., sneers Hickes, "you 
"should have let him be murdered by the mob." To 
this horrible interpretation Burnet indignandy demurs ; 
adducing Napleton's testimony to Burnet's vehement 
" God forbid ! " — and Hickes' own witness to Burnet's 
expressed solicitude. 

Meanwhile, action was imperative. " I went," says 
Burnet, " immediately to Benthinck, and got him to go 
"into the Prince, and let him know what had happened, 
"that some order might be [instandy] taken for the 
"security of the King's person.... The Prince ordered 
" Zuylestein to go immediately to Feversham, and to see 
"the King safe, and at full liberty to go whithersoever 
" he pleased." 

These orders presupposed that the King would continue 
his flight ; and the Prince was bitterly mortified when 
a messenger crossed his own. This emissary intimated 

1 688] The King removed from London 257 • 

that the King was returning to London ; that he desired 
a personal conference with the Prince ; and invited him to 
St James' Palace, with what forces he pleased. 

William, driven into a corner, now affected to treat his 
father-in-law as the general of a defeated army. He 
arrested the messenger, who had brought no safe conduct ; 
and despatched an express with the request that James 
should remain at Rochester. Meanwhile, however, to the 
relief of the general public, the King had reached London. 
He frowned on the men who had saved his capital from 
the mob ; and Halifax, as head of the provisional govern- 
ment, sought refuge in the Prince's camp. 

Animated discussions followed. William declined to 
place his father-in-law under strict arrest ; but while 
striving to throw on others the onus of the decision, he 
wished him removed from London. The wisdom of this 
step is questionable ; the unwisdom of the methods adopted 
is quite undisputed. To arouse the King at midnight 
with an order to leave London ; to replace by Dutch 
troops the English guards at Whitehall — these things 
were calculated to arouse English pity and provoke 
English pride ; and they nearly succeeded in causing 
a sanguinary conflict. James however submitted ; and 
the Prince, who was already at Sion, entered London 
some hours after his father-in-law had left it, under protest, 
for Rochester. 

The situation was now decidedly anxious. ** If," wrote 
Burnet years later, ** King James had to any tolerable 
"degree kept up his spirits the work would have been 
** difficult if not doubtful ; for we saw how variable multi- 
" tudes are by the joy that was in London upon the King's 
"return... and the message sent by the Prince to the King 
'* at midnight to withdraw from Whitehall, struck a general 
'* damp upon many, not only in London, but over the whole 
** nation. The compassion turned then on his side." 

Burnet as usual was ready with his own advice. Either 
at Windsor or Sion he had drawn up, for the Prince's 
perusal, a curious paper of ecclesiastical counsel. Ten 
clergymen are commended to the Prince's particular notice ; 
Tillotson, Tenison, Sharp, Wake, Stillingfleet, Patrick, 
Fowler, Horneck, Sherlock, and Ayrshott. Of these the 

B. 17 


• 258 Bumefs advice to the Prince [chlvii 

• four first rose to metropolitan rank ; the three next 
i attained episcopal honours ; the eighth and ninth 
\ adorned the pulpit and the press. Per contra Burnet 
warned the Prince against Bishop Crew of Durham, the 
Ecclesiastical Commissioner; against Hall, the notorious 
Bishop of Oxford ; against Watson, Bishop of St David's, 
who was to become yet more notorious. He advised the 
• rescinding of James' ecclesiastical appointments ; a re- 
instation of his worthier nominees ; and care in the future 
choice of Royal Chaplains ; " for the rule was formerly 
"to take all Bishops out of that body." The Bishop 
of London should be consulted ; and meanwhile Burnet 
ventures to suggest Dr Birch, Mr Wake, and Finch the 
Warden of All Souls. 

Turning to more general topics, he urges the dis- 
couragement of intemperate rejoicings ; instancing the 
Declaration to a similar effect issued by Charles H in 
1660, no very hopeful precedent He gravely ad- 
monishes the Prince to keep the English troops in 
order ; recommends a solemn Te Deum when the Prince 
reaches London ; and hints the propriety of a regular 
attendance at "prayers in the lobby." It seems in fact 
that on the way up the country the Prince had given some 
offence by attending (as Stadtholder of the States) the 
ministrations of his Dutch chaplain. 

Meanwhile in the critical state of affairs the more 
reckless of the Princess advisers desired him to seize the 
Crown. He of course declined, and on December 20 
summoned the Peers then in town to arrange for the 
meeting of a free Parliament. ** My Lord Halifax," writes 
a sarcastic observer, ** I saw this day in a deep conference 
" with Burnet, who is the Prince's clerk of his closet, and 
'* chaplain, and a great man of State." 

On Saturday the 22nd the Peers thus summoned (Lord 
Halifax presiding) resolved that the King, who was still at 
Rochester, should be requested to issue the writs ; and then 
adjourned over Sunday. 

On that Sunday, at St James* Chapel, Burnet preached 
before the Prince a fine sermon on the text "It is the 
L " Lord s doing." He traces, as he ever loved to trace, the 
'* providential " steps of the affair ; and his allusions seem 

1 688] The Kin^s second flight 259 

doubly impressive in their vivid contemporary garb. But 
his hearers (he adds) must not merely talk about these 
wonders, as we talk of "other Revolutions." They must 
give God the glory ; refraining from faction and from those 
" criminal excesses " which had so marred " the great 
'* Revolution" of **the year Sixty." The atheist is reminded 
that ** standing up for the Protestant Religion" does not 
warrant an impartial scorn for "all that is sacred." The 
preacher expresses a hope that men, in their due distrust of 
Popery, will not emulate its spirit of persecution ; urges 
charity for the fellow- Protestant ; and draws from the 
signal instance before his hearers on which it does not 
become him to dilate, the moral that God can blast 
counsels repugnant to his will. 

Next day (Christmas Eve) the Peers, on assembling, 
encountered startling intelligence. Urged by a letter from 
his Queen, which William had carefully forwarded, James a 
few hours before had taken ship for France. 

Great was the relief at St James'. " If [the King] had 
^'stayed at Rochester" wrote Burnet, twenty-two years 
later, *' the difficulty in the Convention would have become 
" insuperable." But things, even thus, were not as they 
had been at the time of the King s first flight. " We have 
^* now," wrote Burnet to Herbert, on Christmas day, "turn 
''upon luck; the foolish men of Feversham by stopping the 
" King at first, have thrown us into an uneasy after game. 
'* Compassion has begun to work, especially since the Prince 
*' sent him word to leave Whitehall." A legal Parliament 
being now impossible, two expedients had been broached. 
One was to summon ** together with the Peers, all such as 
'* have been Parliament men " to declare Princess Mary 
Queen. Writs for a legal Parliament would then issue in 
her name. " Others think that a Parliament, or rather a 
''Convention is to be summoned (which will be the true 
" representative of the kingdom),... to judge both the King's 
"falling from the Crown and the birth of the pretended 
'* Prince." This assembly would have to declare who is 
actually King, and thus entitled to issue the writs. ** This 
"last is liable to the exception that the slowness of it may 
'* expose Holland," which had actually broken with France, to 
serious danger. ** I have not time " (adds Burnet) "by reason 

17 — 2 

26o Burnet reviews the situation [ch. vii 

" of many impertinent people that press in upon me, to give 

"you a fuller detail of our affairs. Your reflections on 

" the poor King's misfortunes are worthy of you ; I could 

*' hardly have thought that anything relating to him could 

" have given me so much compassion as I find his condition 

"has done. I know," says Burnet (with obvious reference 

to Churchill), " it was not possible for you to have acted as 

" some others have done. But whatever one may think of 

, " that, we must now shut our mouths ; for there is dis- 

! " content enough already, and the army seem generally out 

i " of humour and uneasy at what they have done ; and you 

• I " know we have not the arts of cajolery." Herbert, he 

concludes, must secure a holiday ere "we make a new 

"expedition into France; for I do verily believe the Prince 

"designs it this summer." 

These complaints of the Prince's stiffness reappear in 
the final autobiography. " The Prince's. . .cold reserved way" 
(says Burnet in 1710) "disobliged all that came near him, 
"while his favourite Benthinck provoked them beyond 
" expression by his roughness." The tension created by 
the Kings ejection from Whitehall, was meanwhile in- 
creased by the remonstrance which the exile left behind ; 
and Burnet attempted to combat the reaction by his Reflec- 
tions on that letter " published by Authority." The facts of 
this defence are correct ; but its special pleading cannot put 
gracious face on an essentially impolitic expedient. It 
as, however, the Prince who recalled Burnet s order that 
rayers for King James should be omitted in the chapel of 
t James'. 
Eventually a Convention was summoned ; and in the 
three weeks pause which intervened great was the 
general excitement. Burnet, as he allows, spent a good deal 
of his time " arguing with several sorts of people " ; so that 
he was " well acquainted with men's schemes and reasonings." 
Such disputations must have strangely reminded him of old 
" Exclusion " days ; and all the more so, because, in this 
case also his own opinion appears to have changed during 
the course of the discussions. In a curious undated 
memorandum, found among the Sidney papers, and 
evidently belonging to the interval we now consider, he 
candidly marshals the respective arguments for a deposi- 


1689] Regency versus deposition 261 

tion and a Regency. Burnet allows that retention of 
the Royal style will accentuate the importance of James ; 
he admits the constitutional sacro-sanctity attaching to the 
title of King ; he adduces precedents of Parliamentary 
deposition ; and he accentuates the famous statute of 
Henry VII, which exonerates the adherents of a ** King de 
^^ factor But none the less he evidently leans to the appoint- 
ment of a Regency, as the milder censure, shewing " less 
"ambition and more respect." To a Regent moreover must 
accrue the exceptional revenue settled on King James. 
Actual deposition on the other hand " may seem to subject 
*' the Crown too much to the people" ; for the Crown 
might be regranted on conditions. Deposition would 
alienate "many of the high clergy"; and might entail 
the formalities of a trial. Could not King James, under 
the Regency scheme, be induced to settle in Italy ; sub- 
sisting on a handsome allowance, to be forfeited upon breach 
of the conditions } 

It is probable that this paper was meant for the Prince's 
eye. If so, Burnet must have soon realised that his plan 
lacked the essence of vitality; namely the Prince's consent 
to accept responsibility in any lower capacity than that of 
King. For Burnet's Enquiry into the present state of affairs, 9 
published anonymously " by Authority " on the eve of the 
Convention, was presumably "inspired "; and the arguments 
against a Regency here hold the field. A treaty is 
impossible with one resolved against satisfaction ; when, 
too, the nation has seen "what insignificant things" are 
" promises and oaths " when " Popery is in the other scale." 
Protection and allegiance being reciprocal terms, James by 
his encroachments and his "desertion" has forfeited the 
allegiance of his subjects. Where allegiance is forfeit, 
oaths no longer bind ; as the matrimonial vow dissolves 
"when ..the essence of the bond is broke." And if the 
Oath of Allegiance still binds, it binds "to a great deal 
"more than those that are for treating seem willing to 
"allow." If the King ceases to be King, the next heir 
becomes " the only lawful and rightful King ; and if the next 
" is a Feme Covert, then by the law of Nations which... 
"communicat[es]...all the rights of the wife to the husband 
" this is likewise communicated." So surprising a restate- 

• 262 The Convention [ch. vii 

inent of constitutional law naturally opens the question of 

► khe ''pretended Prince of Wales " {i.e. of course the child 

{claimant of that title) ; and our pamphleteer urges that 

/considering the language used by the King the mere 

i broaching of the issue is to him an unpardonable insult. 

j Burnet hereupon deprecates the dangers of delay. He 

I proposes a solemn pronouncement that a Popish King and 

\ a Protestant Kingdom are incompatible. Of this opinion, 

Ihe adds, were many " before the King came to the Crown." 

Since then his Majesty ** has convinced the whole nation 

"of it." Let the Convention next summarize the whole 

" course of his government," including the *' desertion " 

and the disbandment of the forces ; which latter left a great 

army ** under the greatest temptation to live like banditti." 

The " accident at Feversham " was no true ** return " ; let 

the people therefore declare the throne void. Nor should 

" the great and learned body which has so triumphed over 

"popery in their late contests with it" — (he means the 

clergy of the Church of England) — obstruct a settlement; 

distasteful as may be an implied confession of "once 

"having been in an error." 

These suggestive hints were not lost on the Convention, 

which met January 22. For on January 29 the majority 

. in the Lower House submitted to the Peers its two famous 

J Resolutions : I. That King James H has abdicated t\i^ 

5 Government, and that the throne is vacant. II. That a 

' Popish King is found by experience incompatible with a 

i Protestant Government. Animated debates ensued, during 

which the pretence of investigation into the legitimacy of the 

young Prince was on all sides tacitly abandoned. Indeed 

as the corpus delicti, the infant himself, had been removed 

to a foreign and inferentially hostile land, there to be bred 

a Papist, it is difficult to see where investigations could 

begin or end. 

On January 31st affairs reached a deadlock. For the 
Regency party in the Lords coalesced with Lord Danby, 
who maintained the devolution of the Crown on the Princess 
Mary. It thus secured the rejection of the Clause importing 
a vacancy of the Crown. 

That very day had been selected as a day of thanks- 
giving " for the deliverance of this Nation from Popery and 

1689] Burnet breaks a lance for Mary 263 

''Arbitrary Power by the... Prince of Orange's means." 
Burnet preached before the Commons, and gave them a ^ 
fine sermon on National Happiness. The essence of such 
happiness he believes to consist in this ; *' that the hedges 
** be not broken" where the subject or the nation is concerned. 
After dwelling on the recent deliverance from Popery and 
France, he urges his countrymen to repay, in suitable 
fashion, the friendly offices of the States. At home let 
them uphold the true source of even temporal prosperity — 
the Fear of the Lord. In fine the preacher pleads for 
Justice ; for Tolerance ; for Ecclesiastical Comprehension ; 
for a more adequate remuneration of the undignified clergy ; 
and for a Reform of the Ecclesiastical Laws. 

Business resumed at St Stephen's, a new complication 
appeared. Halifax, the President of the Lords (now a 
strong adherent of the Prince), wished to vest the Crown 
Imperial in the Prince alone, with remainder to the two 

Burnet, who had never contemplated the complete 
supersession of Mary, was greatly shocked ; and placed 
invidious interpretation on the motives of his former friend. 
*' How far," he wrote fifteen years later, " the Prince himself 
"entertained this I cannot tell"; but the attitude of his alter 
ego, Benthinck, was significant in the extreme. He seemed 
"possessed'*' with the idea, in which he was obviously 
" well instructed" ; affected to consult Burnet on the subject, 
yet betrayed his own prepossessions. For many hours 
they argued ** till it was pretty far in the morning." To 
Benthinck s arguments, says Burnet, **I answered with some 
"vehemence that this was a very ill return for the steps the 
"Princess had made to the Prince three years ago:... it 
"would meet with great opposition, and give a general ill 
"impression of the Prince, as insatiable and jealous in his 
"ambition. There was an ill-humour already spreading... 
"through the nation and through the clergy; it was not 
"necessary to increase it... Such a step... would engage the** 
"one sex generally against the Prince; and in time they 
"might feel the effects of that very sensibly. ... For my... part 
" I should think myself bound to oppose it all I could, con- 
" sidering what had passed in Holland." Next morning, in 
fact, Burnet actually sought Benthinck and desired his 

•J264 The settlement [ch. vii 

'* cOngd " ; ** that I might be free to oppose this proposition 
" with all [my] strength and credit." Benthinck desired 
him to wait, till he saw such steps taken ; and " I heard no 
*'more of this." 

Burnet's indignation, though rather illogical, for he was 
perfectly prepared to postpone the claims of Princess Anne, 
no doubt anticipated the sentiments of the nation. 

In fine, Danby, the head of her so-called " party," 
appealed to the Princess herself, only to receive an im- 
V ^ pressive rebuke ; and William meanwhile took public 
occasion of announcing that he should decline the Regency, 
or a merely matrimonial Crown. Matters being once more 
in suspense, Burnet, as usual, interfered. Through Ben- 
thinck he asked the Prince's leave for giving publicity to 
the sentiments of the Princess. The Prince on this left 
Burnet "to his own thoughts." He at once related to 
the principal men the story of Mary's renunciation ; and 
r^ .his hearers assured him it helped not a little "to settle all 
^- l^lipeople's minds." 

A compromise was finally affected ; William and Mary 

were voted Joint Sovereigns for life. On February 12 

JEtincess Mary arrived from Holland ; and the sprightly 

• levity of her manner excited general censure. The Whigs 

# sneered ; the grave Exsl^n records his disapproval ; to 

< Jacobites she seemed a second Tullia ; and even Burnet was 

pained. He remonstrated some days later ; ** with her 

" usual goodness " she pardoned his ** freedom," and gave 

her pathetic explanation. The tragedy of the situation was 

only too patent to her thoughts ; but she had not dared to 

give way; gravity, much less grief (so her husband had 

warned herV would have been ascribed to resentment at her 

own partial supersession. And acting an alien part, she 

1^ perforce had played it ill. 

On the 3ay" following her arrival — Ash Wednesday, 
L^\ 1689 — William HI and Mary II were proclaimed King 
'•" and Queen. 



It was obvious from the first that the new Sovereigns 
owed to the signal services of Burnet some signal re- 
cognition. He was at once appointed a Royal Chaplain 
and Clerk of the Royal Closet ; and it seemed at one 
time as if the princely See of Durham awaited his 
acceptance. The Bishop, Lord Crewe, thought to avert 
a storm by retiring ; and offered to resign in Burnet's 
favour, ''trusting" that Burnet's "generosity" would allow 
him a thousand a year. Burnet refused terms which he 
described as simonical ; but his friends anticipated an 
unconditional surrender of the See. At this moment, 
however, Compton, Bishop of London, urged his own 
claims to promotion, and Crewe, who disliked Compton, 
hereupon reconsidered his decision. 

The See of Salisbury, meanwhile, lay actually vacant ; 
its Bishop having died early in January preceding. 
Burnet's friends now urged his claim, but without his 
sanction ; since Burnet was himself anxious for Lloyd's 
translation. He even spoke to the new King on the 
subject, who " coldly " refused his petition ; and the next 
day nominated Burnet himself "in a way" (says Burnet) 
" that was much more obliging than I could have 

For Burnet at this time was by no means in William's 
good graces. His officious zeal — a loquacity which, if 
sometimes happy, was more often disastrous — an inordinate 
love of exhortation — were qualities not to the taste of the 
despotic and taciturn Dutchman. Burnet's championship 
of Princess Mary must have increased the tension ; and 
Burnet himself relates, complacently enough, his crowning 

266 The King dislikes Burnet [ch.viii 

offence. " I was set on," he says, " by many, to speak to 
" [the King] to change his cold way ; but he cut me off 
*' when I entered upon a freedom with him, so that I could 
'* not go through with it." Undeterred however, " I wrote," 
he says, **a very plain letter to let him see the turn the 
" nation was making from him ; this offended him so that 
**for some months...! was not admitted to speak to him." 

External evidence exists to the unqualified aversion 
which the usually self-contained monarch at this moment 
evinced for his garrulous chaplain. ** I never " (writes 
Lord Halifax, a few weeks later) " heard the King say 
"a kind word of him." The King "wished he knew" 
everyone ** as well as he knew " Burnet ; called him a 
" dangerous man" without ''principles" who would do more 
harm than twenty men could do good; and declared that 
his wish to be of the Council should never be realised. 
It is even recorded, on the authority of Dyckveldt, that 
the King once actually called Burnet ** een rechte Tartuffe"; 
a regular Pecksniff would be our modern expression. 

Mary, on the other hand (herself intensely devout), 
recognized the sincerity which, amid many foibles, charac- 
terized Burnet's piety. ''When I waited on the Queen" 
(he says) " she told me she hoped I would set a pattern to 
" others, and would put in practice those notions with which 
" I had taken the liberty sometimes to entertain her." She 
approved the scheme of life which Burnet had framed ; 
and only added a hope that the young heiress, now about 
to assume the responsibilities of a Bishop s wife, should 
(by simplicity of attire and humility of deportment) 
accommodate herself to the position. She would thus set 
an example which (as Burnet maintains) was woefully to 
seek among the parsons* wives of the day. Mrs Burnet, 
her husband adds, very readily acquiesced in "so reason- 
** able " a requirement. 

Before the consecration could take place, however, 
great difficulties supervened. Archbishop Sancroft, a 
conscientious man, devoid of statesmanlike decision, dis- 
played the vacillation which had marred his conduct 
throughout He at first refused to consecrate Burnet, 
though for a diocese canonically vacant. But finding that 
recalcitrancy must provoke a premunire, he adopted the 

1689] His consecration 267 # 

irregular course of granting his suffragans a commission 
to execute, during pleasure, his metropolitan functions. 
There is still extant a letter from his chancellor, in which 
that official undertakes to use his own name as often, and 
his Grace's as seldom, as may be possible, during the 
formalities preceding Burnet's installation. Such sophistry 
deserved Burnet's reprobation ; and his resentment was 
not unnatural. The strong dislike of Bancroft which 
tinges his later History was, however, conceived on 
a subsequent and a marked provocation. 

Eventually, on Easter Day, after a week of complete 
retirement and a night of solemn vigil, Burnet was con- 
secrated by the Bishops of London, Winchester, Llandaff, 
St Asaph's, and Carlisle, Dr Horneck preaching the 
consecration sermon (subsequently printed by Burnet's 
wish) wherein the new Bishop is stirred to a reforming 
zeal. It is pleasant to find the new prelate petitioning 
that certain customary fees might be diverted from the 
St Paul's Rebuilding Fund "towards the repairing of the 
" ancient and magnificent structure of the Church of Sarum, 
"which needs many and great reparations." 

Three days later Burnet was sworn Chancellor of the 
Garter; Windsor, the headquarters of the Order, being 
then within the bounds of his See. Less than a week 
afterwards he had to preach the Coronation Sermon, on ♦ 
which Macaulay lavishes a well-deserved encomium. It j 
is indeed a fine picture of the Responsibilities of Power. 
Tyranny now rises level with Anarchy in the catalogue of 
evils. **The one makes men beasts of prey... the other... 
"of burden.... Happy we... whose laws are neither writ on 
"sand — nor with blood." 

/ Locke, who had returned from exile after the Revolu- ", 
/ tion, and who was not very enthusiastic with respect to J 
I Burnet, seems to have admired the sermon ; but he 
cannot refrain from a satirical touch, which his biographer 
calls rather spiteful. " Whether," he wrote to Le Clerc — 
** whether, as you persuade yourself, he will shew the 
'•same spirit at Salisbury as he did at Amsterdam, some 
** people begin to doubt. I must tell you a piece of gossip 
•'about him." When visiting the King for the first time 
after consecration, his Majesty had noticed the breadth 

I 268 His political status [ch. vin 

of his shovel-hat "The Bishop replied that this was 
"a shape suited to his dignity. *I hope/ said the King, 
'* 'that the hat won't turn your head/" 

By this elevation, Burnet at once leapt into three 
spheres of activity. His diocesan ties he regarded as the 
most important, and from the purely theoretic standpoint 
he regretted his Parliamentary functions. " The attendance 
"on Parliaments" (he wrote, twenty years later) "...puts us 
" to a great charge, besides the calling us off the half of the 
"year from doing our duty." He did his best to minimize 
this evil. His correspondence, and the journals of the 
House, confirm his son's allegation^ that he always 
procured leave to remain in his diocese as late, and return 
to it as early, as public business would permit. During 
the first year of the new settlement, however, his duties 
as a Member of Convocation and a Peer of Parliament 
were so onerous as to leave little time for diocesan 

Nor did Burnet, from the personal point of view, resent 
pthis obligation. He, who had so often deprecated eccle- 
\ siastical extensions into the purely secular sphere, yet 
j welcomed, with the energy of indefatigable strength and 
j the enthusiasm of new born zeal, his political responsi- 
'^-^bilities. In the intervals of a laborious profession, and of 
/ exacting Hterary toil, he aspired to mould the destinies of his 
V^ country, ^lif "aTTh active politician Burnet was hardly a 
success. He mistook the outlook of the political critic — the 
talents of the political pamphleteer — as sufficient qualifi- 
cation for the maii^ oT action. On certain great issues 
indeed Burnet was to evince a candour, a breadth, a fear- 
lessness of judgment which few of his contemporaries could 
approach. As a debater, again, his copious eloquence gave 
him a decided status; though the vehemence of his 
manner and the stentorian volume of his voice excited 
malicious amusement within the precincts of the Upper 
House. But on all questions of immediate moment his 
intense excitability — the most fatal of flaws in a practical 
statesman — too frequently committed him to expedients 
which outraged his avowed convictions. An inveterate — a 
" blazing " — indiscretion rendered him the enfant terrible 
of contemporary debate. His political associates admitted 

- N 

1689] He is not at first a partizan 269 

him as seldom as possible to confidences of value; and 
never saw him on his feet without a decided tremor. Nor 
was he the first journalist — he is certainly not the last — to 
plume himself on policies which brains more astute or 
more unscrupulous have dexterously employed him to 

The political situation, at the time he entered the Housef" * 
was calculated to excite his sympathies. The new King — 1 
(in language consecrated by Halifax, his most trusted 
Minister), wrote himself down "a trimmer"; he desired 
to transcend parties, and bring a united nation into the 
great coalition against France. Such a policy appealed to \ 
Burne t. He too had been branded as a moderate, a 4"^ 
"Trimmer" — a */Jack qC both. .sides." For hitherto a certain 
breadth and receptivity of temperament — a real if impulsive 
candour of mind — a moral fervour which could not condone 
the excesses of party zeal — had preserved him from the 
shibboleths of a faction. Halifax had been at one time his 
idol ; he had preserved friendly relations with men of almost 
all sections. As the ties of party become more rigid, its 
antagonisms more acute, its passions more intense, we shall 
see him lose that relative sanity of judgment which results 
from width of outlook. Under pressure of political alarms 
— of ** Jacobite" insult and '* High Church" sneers — he 
will die an impassioned partizan. But in 1689 he would 
have resented, as an aspersion, the title of " Tory " or 

Yet towards the '* Tory " or " Church " party his 
professional sympathies inclined, during the first year of the 
Revohitton settlement ; the State Secretary, Lord Notting- 
ham, the hope of the moderate Churchmen, was the statesman 
in whom Burnet most confided ; and to reconcile the clergy 
with the new economy was the leading aim of his policy. 
Through life he remained passionately loyal to what he 
thought the true interests of his adopted communion ; 
but, even at this time, he was alienated — and with a growing 
alienation — by the narrow and furious bigotry which rendered 
so many Anglicans the unrelenting foes of Dissent The 
more rigid churchmen, on their part, had long resented his 
extreme Erastian views and his principles of toleration. 
Since, moreover, as a rule, even the more moderate of the 



^ 270 His relations with the IVhigs [crviii 

clergy acquiesced in the new setdement at some sacrifice of 
sentiment, where not of principle, they had little love for 
a««yi)luntary renegade from the principle of .Passive 


^_gulf almost wider, however, severed Burnet from the 
I semi-republican, semi-dciistical extremists to whom the cant 
QJGihe moment more particularly- applied- the term. /' Wlilg?' 
Erastianism — tolerance — enthusiasm for the new departure 
were the only points of contact between them. Burnet 
resented their avowed hostility to the very existence of 
specifically religious corporations ; and no reformer who 
ever lived was less of a ** doctrinaire." *'/ do not think'' 
(he wrote on September 7 of this year to the Secretary 
of a Whig minister) ** that now when we are at quiet it is 
** convenient to write much upon this subject of. . .the right of the 
^^ peoples defending themselves when the whole constitution is 
" in danger of being overturned. That is a question fit to 
" be laid to sleep; for in quiet times there is no occasion to 
'* dispute " {ji.e. discuss) " it; and whensoever a new occasion 
*' is given by the violence of the government to examine it, 
** authors and matter will be found to support it'' To the 
monarchical principle we find him consistently faithful. As 
it was he who moved and carried the famous, if ill-drawn, 
lajnendment to the Bill of Rights which absolves the subject 
/from allegiance to the husband of a Popish Queen: so 
/William thought fit to entrust him with an additional 
I clause, settling the crown in remainder on the House of 
VHanover. This was rejected by the Whig vote; as the 
result, Burnet indignantly complains, of a veiled Republican 

Some personal animus also existed on either side. The 
Whig exiles would have been more than human had they 
condoned his coldness when in Holland, or failed to satirize 
his tardy conversion to ^'resistance principles." Burnet, on 
his part, was repelled by the virulence, which had accumu- 
lated during an eight years ostracism. He steadily refused 
to countenance the "Whig" legend, that Essex had been 
murdered in the Tower. He concurred with the majority 
in the Upper House which, on motives rather equitable 
than legal, demurred to an appeal from the perjurer Oates, 
the idol of Whig fanaticism. He intervened on behalf of 

1689] He is condemned by the Trimmers ttji 

the new Queen's uncles, who had gone far on their brother- 
in-law's behalf; and of whom one at least had been personally 
injurious to himself. Johnson the pamphleteer, Lord 
Russell's former chaplain (his back scored with the wheals 
of the hangman's scourge), sneered bitterly at "Scotch 
*' Doctors " that would ** teach the art of forgetfulness"; who 
call for '' gvde memories" retentive only of *'gude things." 

Nor could Burnet count on the suffrages even of 
''Trimmers" like himself. The dislike of William has 
been mentioned. Lord Halifax, though ostensibly amicable, 
looked on him with some contempt. He conceived a 
respect for the prelate, and retained admiration for the 
writer \ but his cruellest shafts in the Upper House were 
reserved for the Spiritual Peer. For Halifax had small 
belief in the parson-politician, and regarded with cynical 
amusement the divine's pretensions to statesmanship. 
Burnet's apparent change of front on the Non-resistance 
question had inspired Lord Halifax with distrust; the 
affair of the Crown Matrimonial had left a mutual 
repulsion; and the alienation deepened as Halifax drifted 
into opposition. 

When, meanwhile, on April.^i689,.B.umet took hia seat. \ 
in jhe House of Lords no less than four questions of \ 
immediate eccTesiasticaTlmport were in suspense. The 
Toleration Bill, the Comprehension Bill, the bill concerning 
new Oaths of Allegiance, and the proposed abrogation of 
the Sacramental Test were all reacting one on another, all 
serving as pawns in the more purely political game. 

By the Toleration Bill, freedom of worship was secured 
to all Trinitarian Protestants. Introduced by Lord Not- 
tingham, a " Church " leader, the recent declarations of the 
Episcopate rendered opposition indecent, even to the more 
** rigid " churchmen. For Burnet it realised, of course, one 
of his most cherished dreams ; and he tells us that as 
respects certain unspecified details, he stood alone among 
his spiritual compeers. 

The question of the new Oaths aroused widespread 
alarm ; since it was proposed inter alia to impose them, on 
pain of deprivation, upon all ecclesiastical incumbents. 
Now a large proportion of the Church party, and a still 
larger proportion of the clerical element throughout the 


272 The Oaths of Allegiance [ch.viii 

country, even when ready, and in some cases anxious, to 
accept the new settlement, had scruples about swearing fresh 
Oaths till a regular demise of the Crown. In consequence, 
the Bill, as Burnet tells us, was justly considered **by all 
"the Church party, as a design against the Church of 
'* England. For it was then given out that the greater 
" part would refuse the oaths ; and this [the extreme Whigs] 
" hoped would either quite break or divide the Church/' The 
moderate Whigs meanwhile *' hoped... to bring the matter to 
**such a composition, that the Church party, to save this 
"storm from themselves, should have consented to take 
'*away the Sacrament Test... This would have let in 
" dissenters to places of trust." In pursuance of this policy, 
the King (three weeks before Burnet entered the House), 
had been unwisely induced to press for the repeal of the 
Test Act. Burnet in the strongest manner condemns 
this step ; " there not being any one thing upon which 
"the Church party reckoned that their security depended 
** more than this, they became very jealous of the King 
" as willing to sacrifice the Church to the dissenters." 

William's position was in fact totally untenable. In his 
controversy with James he had systematically represented 
the Tests as the sole security for a dominant establishment, 
where the king is of an alien Church ; and he was himself 
at most an "Occasional Conformist" to the established 
Church of England. But this compromise rejected, "the 
"party" or "the Commonwealth's party" (for such at this 
time are Burnet's synonyms for the Whigs) turned with 
renewed energy to press the Bill of Oaths. 

Burnet originally argued for exemption of the clergy. 
Sound policy indeed in his opinion forbade the government 
to suffer that men who considered themselves "under 
"another allegiance" should "minister in Holy things" 
within the realm. But he regarded the use of the royal 
style in the public ordinances of the church as a pledge of 
fidelity, equal in binding force to "any oaths whatsoever," 
Learning however during the debates that the more 
extreme clergy, by a subterfuge, prayed only for a nameless 
"King" and "Queen," he changed his attitude. Never- 
theless he still favoured a Modus vivendi ; and at the last 
moment, with the Royal sanction, proposed in the House of 

1689] Burnet argues for leniency and submission 273 ^ 

Lords a statesmanlike solution. He suggested that the 
oaths should only be offered, upon an order under the 
Privy Seal, to such clergy as should give signs of disaffection* 
Harmless scruples would thus have been respected ; a rod 
being kept in pickle for the militant Jacobite priest. The 
Lords accepted the amendment ; the Commons threw it 
out; and at the "free conference" of April 22 Burnet was 
an active manager. The Commons dwelt on the injustice 
of differentiating between clerical officials and lay ; the Lords 
on the impolicy of the ecclesiastical imposition ; and on this 
topic "the Bishop of Salisbury" (writes a contemporary) 
"spoke very well." Eventually, after long debate, the 
Lords yielded ; reserving only a proportion of their stipends 
to a limited number of clerical Non-jurors. " Burnet," 
writes a "rigid" churchman, "on this occasion behaves him- 
'*self with more moderation and... affection to the church 

" than is convenient to mention here." The same informant 
mentions that Burnet and Tillotson had offered bail for a 
" Mr Collier," whose release Burnet had procured. Thi 
was probably the famous non-juror. 

Burnet's anxiety now centred round his desire that the 
clergy should accept the inevitable. On May 13a saintly 
divine, in the confidence of Lady Russell, wrote to her on 
the subject of the oaths, which she had urged him to take. 
He told her that the " monarchical principles " imbibed at 
" the breasts " of his " mother the University" forbade him 
to allow the people a power to control the succession. Some 
(he continued) averred a "tacit and virtual conquest." "/ 
" Tvishy' he proceeds, ** it had been owned to be such; for then 
"/ had known, from the resolutions of civilians and casuists 
" and my own reason, what to have cloned Lady Russell may 
have shown this passage to Burnet, who certainly two 
days later addressed to his diocesan clergy an important 
Pastoral Letter. Therein he warned them, by every 
motive of patriotism and of religion^against abandoning, on 
a scrupTe,''tfie ""ffocks commlttea to their charge. In this 
appeal the argument from conquest — the apostolic endorse- 
merit of the powers that be — holds a very prominent place ; 
and even von Ranke fails to realise that it is purely 
addressed ad homines. Such reasoning actually satisfied, 
in a greater or less degree, the majority of scrupulous 

B. x8 


274 The Bill of Comprehension defeated [ch. viii 

consciences ; but while it was equally offensive to dynastic 
Legitimists and " original contract " Whigs, it was not very 
agreeable to national pride. 

Meanwhile the Bill to '* comprehend " the Presbyterian 
dissenters had been languidly supported. Burnet himself 
and its promoter, Lord Nottingham, seem to have been the 
only members of either House who regarded it with any 
enthusiasm. It contemplated a relaxation of Subscription ; 
a compromise on the Ordination question ; the optional use 
of the cross and sponsorship in Baptism, of the kneeling 
position at the Communion ; with a Royal Commission to 
review the Liturgy, the Canons, and the ecclesiastical Courts, 
To the Church party these concessions were extremely 
distasteful ; and Burnet complains of underhand obstruc- 
tion, and overt vilification of the promoters. More 
especially did the " rigid " churchmen emphasize some pre- 
liminary conferences of Burnet and Tillotson with the heads 
of the dissenting interest. In extreme Whig ranks, where 
there was no desire that the Church should receive acces- 
sions, Burnet remarked a lethargy which filled him with 
disgust ; nor were the Presbyterians in love with a treaty 
which came thirty years too late. Burnet s zeal, however, 
survived these checks ; and in hopes of conciliating the 
clergy he voted for the appointment of a purely clerical 
Commission. He thus, as he tells us, ** very much lost the 
'* good opinion of the Whigs." Bitter experience of convo- 
cations, whereof Atterbury was the life and soul, brought 
him in the long run round to the Whig view. ** I am," he 
wrote twenty years later, " now convinced, that if our church 
"is to be set right " it must be by a mixed Commission ; 
" for little good is to be expected from the synodical meetings 
"of the clergy; there is so much ambition, presumption and 
"envy among them, that they may do much mischief"; but 
can scarcely evince inclination or power to do good. 

Meanwhile this concession to clerical feeling was 
fruitless. Ruthlessly attacked and feebly defended, the 
Bill was tacitly abandoned ; the House as a last resort 
petitioning that the King should refer the issues to 

Bitter was Burnet's mortification ; and here he and 
Halifax were at one ; for it was at the Minister s house that 

1689] War declared against France 275 

Sir John Reresby met Burnet on April 14. Host and 
guest were in a state of extreme exasperation. The 
slowness of the House of Commons, the Jacobitism of the 
Church of England, with its hostility to the Dutch and the 
Dissenters ; the reciprocal antipathy of the Presbyterians 
for the Church, and the folly of goading those from whom 
one expects indulgence, afforded themes for reprobation. 
The relegation of the question to Convocation they 
described as the death-blow of the scheme. 

Despite a momentary depression, however, Burnet did / 
not yet despair. His elastic spirit rose to a hope that! 
Convocation might yet be persuaded. England had now 
formally joined, as Burnet had anticipated, the great coalition \ 
against France; and on June 5 was held (largely at Burnet's | 
instance) a day of fasting and intercession for the success i 
of our arms. Burnet, at Hampton Court, preached before • 
the Sovereigns. The recent persecution of the Huguenots, \ 
the proceeding devastation of the Palatinate, pathetically 
illustrate the treatment a vanquished England must expect. 
In face of such terrors he pleads affectingly for ecclesi- 
astical moderation ; for leniency to reasonable, and even ^to 
some unreasonable scruples. Thus only, he urges, by | 
becoming truly national, could the Church of England's 
become, as she behoved, the Mother and Arbitress of; 
Protestant Europe. "^^ 

His references to the ecclesiastical situation, in a subse- 
quent Latin letter to Van Limborch, are interesting ; and 
we give in the Appendix the original of the passage as a 
specimen of Burnet's Latinity. "...Amid the bustle," he 
writes, **by which I am now almost overwhelmed, it is not 
'* easy for any one to bring himself, as often as he should, to 
**the point of conversing, even with his friends....! rejoice 
'* that you applaud my endeavours towards the peace of 
**the church, and for a lessening of the tyranny of sub- 
" scriptions. I have often marvelled at the effrontery with 
*' which the Reformed Churches, to whom Ecclesiastical 
" Infallibility is abhorrent, can require from all their 
" members these forms of subscriptions ; by which one 
^* is bound to acquiesce in every proposition which has 
" found place in the Confession of Faith ; though it is not 
*' easy for an honest man, however devoudy set on cherish- 

x8 — 2 

2/6 A Letter to Van Limborch [ch. viii 

" ing the interests of peace, to swallow, at a gulp, a complete 
'* system. And should there ever dawn a hope of reconcil- 
"ing the Churches, the plan adopted must be, not to 
" endeavour after unity of opinion, which cannot be expected, 
"but so to arrange as that such as differ in opinion may 
**live peaceably side by side Liberty of conscience is 
"already secured here by law. But as regards terms of 
"peace with the Nonconformists (as they are called), though 
"this business was carried through the Upper House some 
" months since, it sticks still in the Lower House ; nor does 
"there seem a chance of it passing this Session. For it 
"happens, as so often falls out, that while the Noncon- 
** formists, hoping for more, despise the offers made them, 
" the stricter Conformists are equally convinced that the 
"terms are too generous. But we hope that the business 
" will be brought to a better issue next winter. As regards 
" the Papists, one cannot too highly applaud the mildness of 
" our religion and of our most merciful monarch ; for even 
" the counsellors of King James live at large. And if any^ 
" now and then, are imprisoned on suspicion, this is done 
"with such gentleness as shows that it is in their own 
" interest ; for they are thus withdrawn and preserved from 
" the wrath of the people, which they have incurred and 
"continue to incur." 

Meanwhile attention was turned to the impending 
session of Convocation ; and on Tillotson's suggestion a 
purely ecclesiastical Commission had been directed to 
prepare a tentative scheme of the proposed conciliatory 
reforms. The step was in some quarters regarded as an 
encroachment on the freedom of Convocation. This charge 
Burnet denied ; but he seems to have admitted (during the 
subsequent sittings) that "since the Act of Submission in 
"Henry VHTs time" Convocation could initiate nothing. 
In consequence, the terms of reference would only enable 
it to debate on these previously elaborated propositions, 
and did not cover counter proposals. 

The letters patent issued September 13. They were 
addressed in all to twelve Bishops, of whom five had been 
appointed (upon regular vacancies) by the new King and 
Queen ; and to eighteen divines, all men of some eminence. 
Tillotson was the moving spirit of the body ; and from the 

i689] Roy al Commission on Ecclesiastical Reform 277 

first what we may term the school of Tillotson, the so-called 
" Latitudinarians," had a slight superiority of number. 
This was increased by the immediate or eventual secession 
of ten among the more " rigid," or as we should say '* High 
** Church," members. The questions before the Commission 
were the revision of the formularies and canons ; and the 
reform of the Ecclesiastical Courts, with the provision of 
facilities for the more adequate examination of ordination 
candidates, and for the removal of scandalous ministers. 
*' There are," wrote Burnet to Bishop Ken on October i, 
when deprecating the Nonjuror schism, ** fair hopes of the 
''reforming of several abuses." 

The Commission sat in the Jerusalem Chamber from 
October 3 to November 18; during which time there were 
18 full sessions, from none of which, save the two first, was 
Burnet absent. They were principally devoted to a revision 
of the prayer-book ; and we shall give a brief sketch of the 
more significant suggestions. In most of these, as was 
natural, the influence of the '* Tillotsonians," and the desire 
to conciliate presbyterian prejudice are clearly discernible. 

For the rubric enjoining daily service another was 
substituted requiring the clergy to urge on their flocks 
attendance at daily service; and to hold such services 
wherever congregations should be obtainable. 

From the Calendar were expunged all ** black letter " 
entries ; and all Apocryphal lessons. 

Throughout the book the ** Priest " becomes the 
"Presbyter" or "Minister"; Sunday "the Lord's day." 

The chanting of the service, in its non-lyrical portions, 
is forbidden. 

The " Ornaments rubric " is deleted. A new rubric 
was proposed, commending the surplice as an " ancient and 
" decent habit " ; but allowing Episcopal dispensations to 
scrupulous incumbents and congregations. This however 
was not endorsed ; and desire was expressed for a " canon 
"to specify the vestments." 

In the daily offices we find much minor revision of 
obsolete or ambiguous terms ; and some attempts were 
made to shorten the composite service. Burnet seems to 
have proposed the omission of the Lessons, when Gospel 
and Epistle are read ; but did not carry the point. 

2/8 Its Liturgical suggestions [ch. viii 

The Athanasian Creed occasioned much debate. Three 
courses lay open : i. To leave it optional ; 2. To omit the 
"damnatory clauses"; or 3. To insert an explanatory rubric. 
The original introduction of such a creed was generally 
r^^etted ; but its deletion was deprecated, on account of its 
antiquity, the uniform practice of the Reformed Church of 
England, and the " offence "such a step would give. *' It was 
"replied by the Bishop of Salisbury: i. That the Church of 
" England received the four first General Councils [and] 
"that the Ephesine Council condemns any new Creeds. 
" 2. That this Creed was not very ancient and the Filioque 
"especially. 3. That it condemned the Greek Church, 
"whom yet we defend." Eventually the Commission 
decided to restrict the use of the Creed, by confining it to 
the greater festivals and All Saints* Day ; and to insert an 
explanatory rubric limiting the denunciations of the creed 
to such as obstinately deny the " substance of the Christian 
"faith." A number still strove for an optional alternative ; 
eminent Conformists, it was said, already ignored the Creed ; 
to the Nonconformists it was specially distasteful. Finally 
the responsibility was referred to Convocation ; where 
Burnet and Tillotson promised to support its optional use. 

In the Communion service the Beatitudes, with appro- 
priate responses, were allowed to alternate with the Ten 
Commandments. After the Nicene Creed occurs the 
memorandum, which we may not improbably ascribe to 
Burnet's influence : " It is humbly submitted to the Con- 
" vocation whether a note ought not here to be added with 
" relation to the Greek Church, in order to our maintaining 
"Catholic Communion." In the rubric concerning publica- 
tion a new clause (obviously suggested by the episode of 
the "Indulgence" Declaration), forbids announcements illegal 
in their tenor. The despondent are to seek, not absolution 
but " spiritual advice and comfort." A new rubric requires 
monthly celebration of the Eucharist in all large parishes, 
and a quarterly celebration at the least in all small ones ; 
and obliges the clergy to urge frequency in Communion. 
Kneeling may be dispensed with, if notice be previously 
given of a conscientious scruple on the part of an intending 

In the Baptismal Service, parents are admitted as God- 

1689] The Ordination Services 279 

parents ^or ** Sureties " as the revisers preferred to call 
them); all '* Sureties" to be communicants. The phrases 
implying a baptismal regeneration were retained, after con- 
siderable debate. A well-expressed rubric (drawn up, 
apparently, by Burnet) vindicates as an ** ancient and 
" laudable custom " the sign of the cross in baptism ; 
but allows episcopal dispensation in case of scrupulous 

In the Catechism, the Eucharist is additionally defined 
as a renewal of pledges to the Redeemer ; and the unique 
character of the Crucial Sacrifice is additionally emphasized. 

To the marriage service, a notice is appended, demand- 
ing a canonical restraint of the abuses then connected with 
the special license system. The ring is rubrically defined 
as a ** civil ceremony and pledge"; and the frank terms 
of the preface are slightly modified. 

At the Visitation of the Sick, the words ** upon thy 
**true faith and repentance" are inserted in the formula 
of absolution ; " I absolve thee " being also changed into 
" I pronounce thee absolved." 

A slight and dexterous alteration in the Burial Service 
modifies the suggestion of an indiscriminate belief in the 
bliss of the departed. 

The Commination Service is entirely recast. The 
existing preface and the Deuteronomic curses are replaced 
by the Beatitudes, and various evangelical denunciations, 
with appropriate responses ; and by an exhortation which 
we may reasonably ascribe to Burnet's pen. This dilates 
on the primitive idea of Lent ; on its mediaeval accretions ; 
and on the conditions of a salutary fast. 

The Ordination Services received much attention. As 
regards the examination of candidates ** the Bishop of Salis- 
** bury told the board what was wont to be in his time in 
"Scotland." The question of Reordination seemed urgent. 
The Bishop of Sarum distinguished three separate issues. 

1. The case of converts from the Roman Priesthood. 

2. That of Ministers ordained in Foreign Protestant 
Churches. 3. That of Ministers ordained by "the Dis- 
"senters at home." It was queried on the first head, whether 
the doctrine of Intention, and the impossibility of testing 
the Letters of Orders adduced by professedly priestly 

28o Proposed Book of Homilies [ch. viii 

converts did not render reordination a necessity. With 
respect to foreign Presbyterians Burnet quoted the pre- 
cedents of Dr Du Moulin, appointed a Prebendary of 
Canterbury without reordination, and of the Scotch Bishops 
consecrated, without reordination, under James I. At last 
it was proposed that persons possessing actual though 
imperfect orders " should be received by the imposition 
"of hands of the Bishop... to officiate in the Church of 
'* England." As regards the English Dissenters, ** the 
" Bishop of Salisbury " argued for leniency ; ** it was a kind 
" of necessity in our present circumstances, and... the ancient 
" church did give us some directions, when notwithstanding 
'' the Canons of the Church against admitting two Bishops 
** to one Altar, yet they were willing to receive the 
** Donatists... though [they] had been very vexatious." A 
rubric was eventually agreed upon, which while maintaining 
episcopal ordination as the sole and constant practice of the 
ancient church, yet permitted, in the interests of peace, for 
the present occasion only, this hypothetical ordination of 
men Presbyterially ordained. Each party was left speci- 
fically at liberty to place his own interpretation on the words 
" If thou hast not been already ordained " ; and this, as 
Burnet thought, removed all taint of equivocation. 

The formula of ordination was also debated. Many 
wished it transformed into a prayer. Burnet argued that 
the actual form (uncountenanced by the "Apostolic" 
Constitutions, by the Carthaginian Council, or by the 
Areopagite Dionysius) ** was not above 400 years standing 
*' and... was brought in... when the design was to exalt the 
** priesthood... in Hildebrand's time." In the long and 
technical debate which followed the authorities Bramhall 
and Francis Mason were freely quoted against Burnet 
'* To this the Bishop of Sarum replied, it was their mistake, 
" and if Mr Mason had lived since Morinus published his 
" book, he would have made good work with it." Tillotson 
supported him with an appeal to Augustine de Trinitate\ 
and Burnet carried the day. 

Tillotson also consulted Burnet in private as to a 
subsidiary book of Homilies. The old one was more or 
less obsolete ; and moreover contained — so the Jacobites 
spitefully hinted — a vigorous defence of '* non-resistance." 

1689] Anglicans alarmed by Scottish Revolution 281 \ 

Tillotson himself framed an elaborate scheme, by which 
Christian faith and morals should have been systematically 
handled, in an annual course of 72 sermons. These were 
to harmonize with a revised series of collects, epistles and 
gospels ; and he would have apportioned them among 
various contributors, notably himself, Burnet and Patrick. 
A proclamation against vice and immorality suggested 
subjects ; and during the next few months Burnet actually 
prepared seven discourses, first published twenty-four years 
later. They treat respectively of the two evangelical com- 
mandments, of the third, fourth and eighth articles of the 
Decalogue, of Common Swearing, and of Drunkenness. 
They may rank as models of simple exhortation ; that 
on love of our neighbour is a beautiful little treatise. 

The questions of Subscription and Excommunication, 
which specially interested Burnet, were postponed for lack 
of time. 

Meanwhile rumours of impending change exasperated 
the lower clergy, already seething with discontent Nor 
can this irritation surprise us. The Presbyterian King ♦ 
had been half a year on the throne. During that time 
nothing had been done in favour of the Established Church ; 
and several measures had passed extremely obnoxious to 
her clergy. Meanwhile the Protestant Nonconformist 
bodies, all Presbyterian in form, had received Parliamentary 
boons. Across the Scotch border, moreover, Presbyterianism 
was already in possession ; and the violence which accom- 
panied the change, and was even exaggerated by rumour, 
intensified the alarm of the Anglican party. 

The odium this excited rebounded more particularly on 
Burnet. "It was... thought," he tells us, "that I could 
"have hindered the change... in Scotland." 

This charge is unfounded. Burnet, who had intervened, 
even in Holland, for Scotch episcopalianism, had more 
recently introduced to William the Dean of Glasgow, the 
accredited representative of the Scotch episcopate. From 
the first, however, Burnet was pointedly refused that influence 
in Scotch affairs on which Duke Hamilton and Dundee 
(Burnet's connection by marriage) had both prematurely 
relied. For the King, who had striven for at least the appear- 
ance of impartiality, had been forced by the frank Jacobitism 

282 Convocation rejects Comprehension [ch. viii 

of the Episcopalians in Scotland, where not a Bishop took 
the Oaths, into the arms of the Presbyterians. A Presby- 
terian triumvirate at Whitehall ^Benthinck, the elder 
Dalrymple and the Reverend William Carstares) ruled 
Scotland in the moderate Presbyterian interest. William 
urged Burnet to explain among his friends the nature of 
the Royal dilemma ; promising — no easy task — to bridle 
Presbyterian passion. Burnet did his best; but his Eras- 
tian excuses for the step, and the continued intolerance 
of the Scotch Presbyterians **gave very bad impressions" 
to ** the whole body of the clergy." 

It was therefore not surprising that intense resentment 
arose at the proposal to "purge" the Liturgy in the 
interests of Presbyterian scruple ; or that the elections for 
Convocation produced a majority hostile to ecclesiastical 
concession. The Members, late in November, came up 
ready for the fray; and Burnet pressed to the fore. One Dr 
Jane, a seceder from the Commission, ** was " (writes a 
strong churchman) "to have preached on Sunday [afternoon] 
"last before the King at Whitehall... ; but the impulse was 
"so strong upon the Bishop of Sfarujm that he...dis- 
" possessed the Doctor of the pulpit. The subject of the 
discourse so interpolated does not appear. On November 26, 
however, when Burnet preached at St Lawrence Jewry, he 
delivered an impressive (if hardly tactfuH "exhortation to 
" Peace and Unity" on the text " Ye are orethren." 

Convocation business had begun on November 20 in 
H enry V 1 1 th s Chapel. Beveridge, one of the highest church- 
men who had remained on the Commission, opened proceed- 
ings with a fine Latin Sermon ; wherein, while eulogizing 
the existing formularies of the Church, he recommended, 
in the name of charity, some condescension. The Lower 
House immediately selected Jane as prolocutor ; and it was 
at once clear that the revision was doomed. Dissensions 
instantly arose between the two Houses on the subject of 
an address to the King ; the Lower House vetoing the 
words "the Protestant Religion in general" lest it should 
" own the Presbyterian churches of the Continent" Burnet, 
as champion of reform, and Jane, as prolocutor, managed 
the ensuing conference. The Lower House proposed to 
accept the amendment ** Protestant Churches " in place of 

1689-90] and is pretermitted for ten years 283 

" Protestant Religion." Burnet for his part argued that 
the unqualified term ** Church of England " is on its side 
equivocal ; since the epithet, being purely local, would apply 
to Popery if once established in England. The existing 
Church of England, he maintained, might well accept the 
adjective ** Protestant," since it is only distinguished 
from the other Protestant Churches by its hierarchy and 
revenues. Jane smartly replied that Articles, Liturgy, 
Homilies, are further distinguishing features ; and that the 
phrase ** Protestant Churches " is really more equivocal, 
since it could be stretched to include Anabaptists, Socinians 
and Quakers. A cool and colourless address was finally 
adopted; the Lower House deliberately diverged on a side 
issue, and in February, with the Parliament, Convocation 

Reform and Comprehension were thus scotched ; and 
ten years were to elapse ere Convocation again met. 
Mortified as was Burnet, he concluded all for the best. 
The ** rigid" Churchmen would never have acquiesced in 
the proposed alterations ; and a schism must have been the 
result of success. 

At St Stephen's, meanwhile, the winter session of 1689- 
90 had proved stormy in the extreme. Bitter complaints 
of unsuccessful operations in Ireland alternated with violent 
contests for supremacy between the extreme churchmen 
(or "Tories"), and their antipodes the fanatical ** Whigs." 
These last avowedly strove (by means of the Corporation 
Bill, and the so-called ** Murder" enquiry into the *' Rye 
'* House" prosecutions) to ostracise the Tories and 
Moderates. With unrelenting hostility they drove Halifax 
into opposition ; and their clamorous virulence, as it com- 
pletely alienated William, so it disgusted the nation. A 
dissolution became imperative ; and the general election 
immediately ensued. 

On February 22, Burnet writing to a friend gives some 
interesting details. " We have," he says, '* nothing amongst 
"us now but elections which put the nation into a high 
** fermentation ; and it is not possible yet to know which 
**side will prevail. Those who are called the Tories do 
*' now declare very high for the present government... so that 
•*it seems rather to be an animosity of parties among 

284 A General Election [ch. viii 

** themselves, than anything in which the government is 
"concerned.... The Kings own behaviour is so very equal 
"that it appears he thinks himself sure of both parties." 
For his Majesty recommends no one; but when directly 
appealed to says '* That he would have moderate men of 
**the Church party chosen." In fine, the result was a 
" Church " or ** Tory " majority. 

■ About a week before the meeting of the new Parlia- 
} ment, on occasion of a fast for the war, Burnet, at Bow 
Church, preached to the Court of Aldermen a remarkable 
sermon. His text is the evangelical narrative, wherein 
Christ laments over Jerusalem, as ignorant concerning her 
peace. Transferring the charge to the England of his own 
day, Burnet pictures the comparative blessings of the 
nation from 1558 to 1688. Even the Civil War had its 
alleviations ; both sides, at least, so far remembered they 
were Englishmen that they sought no foreign aid. Other 
storms that threatened have "gone over us in so 
*' inoffensive a manner " that many undervalue a deliverance 
from evils seen more than felt. Meanwhile the foreign 
Protestant Churches, fallen from their first love, drink the 
cup of God's wrath ; and what have not we deserved } 
With unsparing severity he unveils the corruptions of the 
age ; the luxury, and the injustice — the fraud, the violence, 
and the impieties— of which London is the seat. Forcibly 
he paints for us the sieges of Jerusalem and Constantinople ; 
when a corrupt society, torn by internal dissensions, fell 
a facile prey to the savage rapacity of its foes. Nor are 
these (he warns his readers) merely " signal transactionfs] " 
of the centuries that are dead; rather they are a "standing 
" monument of the severity of the justice of God against an 
"impenitent... nation." What of us, who, confronted by a 
mighty enemy, yet revive, " with the old and once extin- 
"guished names, our old animosities".^ He is specially 
severe on the relentless foes of the Church. "It was once 
"hoped" (he proceeds) "that all past errors had been 
" forgot " ; and more especially and deservedly those of a 
party (he means the Church), which at the crisis, seeing 
the real tendency of certain false steps it had taken, 
generously retraced them, and joined in against "the 
"common enemy." But no. "A violent aversion and a 

1690] A stormy Session 285 

'* mortal jealousy appears on all hands ; we fancy we are 
" not safe from one another, and by our fancying it... render 
"ourselves... unsafe.... Is every man" (he cries) "...soured 
"with the leaven of a party ?... Were the wrongs done so 
"great that they cannot be forgiven ? Are the differences 
"so wide that they cannot be healed } Is there no balm in 
" Gilead, and is there no physician there ? " 

This impassioned appeal was however quite fruitless. 
The "new Parliament, when not engrossed in party 
recrimination, wrangled over the Revenue, and a new "Test 
" Oath." Despite his pacific counsels, even Burnet voted for 
the singularly impolitic " Abjuration Bill " initiated in the 
House of Lords. This would have imposed disfranchise- 
ment, official ineligibility, and double taxation, upon all 
adult males who should not take an oath renunciatory of 
King James, which was couched in terms repulsive to the 
conscientious Tory. It must be admitted, however, that a 
French invasion seemed imminent ; and perhaps Burnet, in 
the excitement of the moment, thought the exclusion of 
Jacobites from trust the overwhelming need of the hour. 
The project fortunately collapsed, as Burnet lived to 
approve. For when recording, a year later, in his 
Memoirs, the defeat, by Royal influence, of a yet more 
drastic Bill introduced in the House of Commons, he calls 
this interposition " a wise and good resolution ; though " 
(he adds) " I... was at that time of another mind." For if 
the Royal intervention "enraged the Whigs who hoped... 
" to have all the places of trust," yet in general ** it had" 
(he says) " a good effect ; it gained the Tories more 
" entirely to the King." 

The Revenue question he discussed with the King him- > 
self He thus realised how acutely William resented the 
temporary character of grants made to himself; in glaring 
contrast to those which had been accorded to his pre- 
decessor for life. Burnet diplomatically hinted that occa- 
sional revenues guarantee frequent Parliaments ; and that 
a precedent seemed desirable in view of possible successors. 
Less appropriate was his reminder that such precautions 
might have saved James II from himself. William, as 
we learn without surprise, was not much appeased by the 
singularly maladroit consolation. 

(lb 286 William softens towards Burnet [ch. vm 

The prorogation took place May 20 ; and William an- 
nounced his intention of assuming the command in Ireland. 
Despite Burnet's habitual want of tact the extreme dislike 
^ with which William had regarded him seems to have been 
j on the wane. The Bishop's freedom from party entangle- 
I ments, his zeal for comprehension, his obvious and single- 
\ hearted enthusiasm for the new settlement, all told in his 
j favour. He had been moreover the channel of some useful 
services. Through him a Scotch informer, of high rank, 
had conveyed to the King intelligence of a plot which had 
been ignored by Benthinck, the virtual viceroy for Scotland. 
Through Burnet, also, an adventurer had submitted a 
project to kidnap King James; a scheme which Burnet 
approved, but William more wisely vetoed. 

Further, we see reason to surmise that William ap- 

reciated Burnet's enthusiasm for the Queen, whose self- 

ffacing loyalty (her obvious abilities notwithstanding) 

. /as thawing the coldness of her hitherto unresponsive 

^sband. A few hours before his departure he summoned 

Burnet to his closet. Resolute as usual, his spirits were 

unusually depressed. To his wife, who was to assume (as 

^ Burnet had anxiously desired) the reins of Government in 

^his absence, he referred with unwonted solicitude ; trusting 

^hat all " who loved him would wait much on her and assist 

(**her." He lamented the passions he left behind — passions 

fomented by the clergy; from which charge however he 

was "pleased to... except" Burnet. To the parricidal 

character of the campaign on which he must enter, he 

referred in feeling terms ; and desiring Burnet s prayers 

dismissed him " very deeply affected." 

Pursuant to these commands, Burnet remained at 

Windsor (then within his diocesan limits) through the whole 

\ of the anxious summer which saw the victory of the Boyne, 

and the naval disaster of Beachy Head. Once a week he 

; waited on the Queen at Whitehall ; and her fortitude 

. intensified his admiration. Racked by conflicting appre- 

■ hensions for husband, father, and country she preserved her 

\ self-command, and told Burnet that if forced to confront revolt 

'"-or invasion she would permit him to attend her. Measures 

so extreme were not however required, and Burnet was free, 

for the first time, to grapple with diocesan problems. 


1689] His resolutions on entering the Episcopate 287 

The resolutions with which he had entered on his 
episcopate have been preserved ; and reveal, like the 
corresponding notes of Bishop Wilberforce, an awe, a self- 
abasement, and a self-distrust, which almost surprise the 

** I am now," he says, ** coming to thee again, O my God, 
^' to be once more dedicated to thee, and to rise up to the 
" highest station in thy house. But how does this strike 
"me, when I, that am not worthy to remain in the lowest 
*' order, but deserve to be cast out, as salt that has lost its 
'* savour, am now to be exalted instead of being debased ! 
" Oh but the judgments of men are slight and deceitful 
things! I pass for somewhat in the world. But... I know 
the corruptions of my own heart and the errors of my life, 
'* which ought rather to drive me to a wilderness to spend 
** the rest of my life in mourning for what is past, than to 
" enter upon an employment that is but a little lower than 
** that of angels. I have had address enough to cover my 
"faults, and favourable circumstances have concurred to 
"hide them from the world. But they are all known to 
"thee, and therefore I stand trembling in thy presence, 
" divided in my thoughts ; thy Providence seems to call me 
"out to this station and my guilt pulls me back. ... Ought 
" not I rather to fall down before the Bishops, as an humble 
" penitent to subject myself to the utmost severities of 
" censure, rather than suffer them to lay hands on so great 
"a sinner? Here I fall down before thee, O God, to be 
" guided by thee ; for after all, how guilty soever I may be, 
" I still retain my integrity, and do offer myself up to thee. 
" All that determines me now is that thy Providence which 
" calls me to this station is public and visible and my sins 
" which pull me back are secret, and therefore it seems to be 
" thy will that one should be followed rather than the other. 
" But... thou who knows my sins knowest likewise how 
"bitterly I have mourned for them... and how seriously I 
" am resolved to change the whole course of my life, even 
"to the smallest particulars. I am indeed resolved to avoid 
"all singularities and affectations; but as I will keep sin 
" and all objects that may lead to it at the greatest distance, 
" so I will enter on a stricter course of daily devotion, and 
** of seeking this by secret prayer ; of spending days in 


288 Resolutions an enterif^ the Episcopate [ 

" fasting and wrestling with thee as I was wont to do many 
"years ago." He vows to live as an example before his 
household, his diocese, and the world. " I will visit the 
" sick, relieve the poor, comfort the prisoners, and will 
"employ the revenue that belongs to the Church as a 
** trust which I am to administer, and for which I know I 
"must answer to thee, whose right it is.... And as for this 
" Holy Function, into which I enter, as thou hast given me 
high and sublime notions concerning it, so I will by thy 
grace put all these in practice. ... I will not spare myself, 
" much less will I lose that time which now in a more 
" particular manner is thine, in following a Court or any 
"other impertinent cares.... I will lay aside the prejudices 
"of a party, and as I will not rule over any by force or 
" cruelty, so I will show all kindness not only to such as 
" may differ from me, but even to gainsayers ; for I will 
" love all men. I will live with my brethren of the clergy 
" in all brotherly love and true humility. I will not act by 
" my own single advice but by the concurrence of the best of 
" my clergy, and will do what in me lies to carry on the 
" Reformation of this Church to a full perfection, by cutting 
" off the corruptions that do still remain among us, and by 
"adding such things as are wanting.... And I will set myself 
" to do the work of a Bishop in my diocese without ever 
"designing to remove... higher.... All these are my sincere 
"resolutions; yet I know they will be as nothing if thou 
"dost not concur.... Oh how often have I begun well, but, 
" alas, the end was afflicting ! All my hope is now placed 
" in this, that I know I begin at thee, my God, and put 
" my trust wholly in thee. O let [me] feel this day some of 
"the motions of that wind that blows whensoever thou 
" pleases ! Make me find both in my receiving this divine 
" benediction and in being admitted to the mysteries of thy 
" Son's death such a measure of thy grace, that I may feel 
" that I have a new principle within me, a seed of God by 
" which I may grow up to thee.... Do thou but enable me to 
"perform my duty and then dispose of me in all other 
"things." Martyrdom indeed were by far the noblest 
portion. " But thou O God knows best what I am able to 
"do and to suffer; therefore... thy will be done on me and 
"in me... .Come, Lord Jesus, even so, come quickly!" 

1689-17 1 5] His Episcopal methods 289 

Such was the temper in which Burnet entered his See. 
The failure of the Church reform project but stimulated his 
diocesan ardour ; " I saw," he says, ** no good could be done 
** in that •• .conjuncture for the dealing of our breaches, this 
" made me apply myself more diligently to do all the good 
** I could in my own diocese.... And because my diocese 
"consist[s] of two counties, Wiltshire and Berkshire, I 
" resolved to divide the year between them... eight months 
** Salisbury and four at Windsor." 

The Episcopal energy of Burnet has been eulogized in 
a well known Character. This is usually ascribed to his 
former friend, Savile, Lord Halifax; though perhaps it may 
be really attributable to the Halifax whose surname was 
Montague. Burnet (explains this essay sarcastically) 
" makes many enemies by setting an ill-natured example of 
'* living which they are not inclined to follow. Hisindiffer- 
" ence for preferment, his contempt not only of splendour, 
" but of all unnecessary plenty, his degrading himself into 
" the lowest and most painful duties of his calling, are such 
" unprelatical qualities, that, let him be never so orthodox in 
" other things, in these he must be a dissenter. Virtues of 
*' such a stamp are so many heresies in the opinion of those 
** divines who have softened the primitive injunctions, so as 
" to make them suit better with the present frailty of man- 
" kind. No wonder then if they are angry, since it is in 
" their own defence ; or that from a principle of self-pre- 
** servation they should endeavour to suppress a man, whose 
" parts are a shame, and whose life is a scandal to them." 

His methods indeed appear to have been much more 
energetic than those of his brother bishops, respectable as 
were many of these. They resemble more those initiated, 
a century and a half later, by another episcopal reformer, 
who was to rule over the Berkshire portion of Burnet's own 
diocese. Like Wilberforce, Burnet relied much on elaborate 
diocesan tours, distinct from the formal visitation. Once a 
year, he devoted three weeks or a month to perambulating 
his diocese "preaching and confirming every day from 
** church to church," keeping open table for his clergy, 
and in his earlier days holding conferences with them 
"upon the chief heads of Divinity.'* In discourses "of 
" about two hours length, I opened," says Burnet, " all that 

B. 19 

290 His diocesan tours [ch. vni 

''related to the head proposed, and encouraged them to 
" object or propose questions." Mr Tanner, incumbent of 
Lavington, writing to his son, the well-known antiquary 
(then an OxfcH-d undergraduate), g^ves a pleasing glimpse 
of such a conference, held in 1694 at "The Devizes/' 
A considerable company of the clergy there met the Bishop, 
and discussed the leg^ and evangelical dispensations. 
** He is," says Tanner, "exceedingly kind and civil to the 
** clergy and gave us very good treatment" Some of these 
discourses, when published, occasioned heated controversy. 
" I found," says Burnet, " the clergy were not much the 
" better for them, and false stories were made and believed 
"of what I delivered in those conferences"; and after his 
work on the Articles had rendered them superfluous, he 
abandoned them altogether. 

Like Wilberforce he placed great emphasis on the rite of 
Confirmation. " I judged," he says, " that nothing would be 
** a likelier means to raise the spirit of religion (that was gene- 
" rally sunk and dead) than the calling on persons to be con- 
" firmed, not in their childhood upon their having the church 
" catechism by rote, but when they were come to the years 
" of discretion, that so by an act and sponsion of their own 
" they might engage themselves to Christianity. I thought 
"this would likewise give the clergy an opportunity of 
"going from house to house about their parishes, and of 
"enquiring into their deportment, and so entering upon 
" such methods of treating with them as they should find to 
" be most effectual. This I have observed on my part; but 
"it is not easy to bring the clergy to desire to take pains 
"among their people, nor are the people very willing to 
" submit to it, so this goes on but slowly." 

It is certain at any rate that Burnet did his share, for he 
took the trouble to draw up and forward to every incumbent 
preliminary suggestions for the preparation of confirmation 

His system was as follows. " I stay," he writes, " a 
" week in a place, where every morning I go and preach 
" and confirm in some church within six or seven mile of the 
" place, and then at five o'clock after evening prayer I 
" catechise some children, and explain the whole Catechism 
"to them, so that I go through it all in six days, and 

1689-1715] Ordination examinations 291 

*' confirm there next Lord s Day, and make " a present 
of books "to the value of about a crown a chilcl to all 
" whom I catechised, and I have them all to dine with me 
" on the Lord's day. This seems to be the most profitable 
"method I can devise both for instructing, as well as 
" provoking, the clergy to catechise much, and for setting a 
** good emulation among the younger sort to be instructed." 
The "youth of the two great schools" at Salisbury specially 
attracted his attention ; and he took care to be at Ssdisbury 
every Lent, that he might catechise them in the cathedral. 

At all times he was, like Wilberforce, an indefatigable 
preacher. Whenever in residence at Salisbury, he under- 
took the weekly "lecture" at the Church of St Thomas. Each 
Sunday evening he lectured in his own Chapel to crowded 
congregations, on the Epistles and Gospels; and made a 
point on Sunday mornings of preaching in "as many 
" churches as lay within such a distance that I could 
"decently go to them and return on a Sunday." On one 
occasion, at a time of high floods, his reluctance to disappoint 
a rural congregation nearly cost him, as his son tells us, his 
life. By the time he had held his bishopric fifteen months, 
he had preached and confirmed in fifty parishes; while when 
writing his autobiography in the twenty-first year of his 
episcopate, he could record that he had confirmed in two 
hundred and seventy-five churches of his diocese, having 
visited the more important ten or twelve times. 

The due preparation of candidates for orders caused in 
him, as in Wilberforce, peculiar solicitude. " I looked," he 
says, "on Ordinations as the most important part of a 
" Bishop's care and that on which the law had laid no 
"restraints; for it was absolutely in the Bishop's power to 
" ordain or not as he judged a person qualified for it ; and 
'* so I resolved to take that matter to heart. I never turned 
" over the examining those who came to me for orders to a 
" Chaplain or an Archdeacon. I examined them very care- 
" fully myself." He always tested, in the first place, their 
knowledge as to Christian evidences, " the authority of the 
"Scriptures, and the nature of the Gospel-covenant in 
" Christ " ; and unless satisfied on these points, refused to 
pass them. His intellectual standard was probably rather 
exacting compared with that of his day ; but he complains 

292 His theological college [ch. viii 

that even those who "could not be called ignorant... read 
"the Scriptures so little that they scarce knew the most 
"common things in them." When satisfied, however, on 
the point of intellectual fitness " I directed," he says, "the 
"rest of my discourse to their consciences and... all the 
"parts of the Pastoral Care." The act of Ordination 
"I resolved to do... with the concurrence of as great 
**a number of the clergy as I could gather about me, 
** "without whose approbation and consent I resolved never 
•*to ordain any. And this I have hitherto observed; but I 
" find that the strictness of my examinations frightens the 
" clergy so that few come to me." 

As regards presentations, he had less discretion; but 
on more than one occasion, though threatened with a 
law-suit, he refused institution to a grossly ignorant 
presentee ; and then with his usual energetic generosity 
prepared him for his duties himself. 

His theological collie at Salisbury — the scheme nearest 

to his heart — foreshadowed that of Wilberforce at Cuddes- 

don. * ' I thought," he says, "the greatest prejudice the Church 

'was under was from the ill-education of the clergy. In 

' the Universities they for most part lost the learning they 

* brought with them from schools, and learned so very little in 

* them that commonly they came from them less knowing 
•than when they went to them, especially the servitors; 
' who if they had not a very good capacity, and were very 
' well disposed of themselves, were generally neglected by 

* their tutors. They likewise learned the airs of vanity and 
' insolence at the Universities ; so that I resolved to have a 
'nursery, at Salisbury, of students in Divinity." These 

were to be trained to " hard study and in a course of as 

* much devotion as they could be brought to " that so, as 
Burnet puts it, " I might have a sufficient number of 

'persons ready to be put in such cures as fell to my 

'• I allowed them " (he says) " £,^0 apiece, and 
' during my stay at Salisbury I ordered them to come to 
'me once a day and then I answered such difficulties as 
'occurred to them in their studies, and entertained them 
' with some discourses, either on the speculative or practical 
'part of divinity, or some branch of the Pastoral Care. 

1689-17 1 5] His care for his clergy 293 

" This lasted an hour, and thus I hoped to have formed 
** some to have served to good purpose in the Church. 
'* Some of these have answered my expectation to the full, 
*' and continue still labouring in the Gospel." 

On the whole however the experiment, in his hands, 
proved a failure; for, says Burnet, the students '*were not 
** all equally well chosen. This was considered as a present 
"settlement that drew a better one after it, so I was pre- 
** vailed on by importunity to receive some who did not 
''answer expectation.*' Moreover, like Cuddesdon, his 
college excited an hostility from University quarters under 
which, unlike Cuddesdon, it eventually succumbed. "Those 
" at Oxford," he writes, "looked on this as a public affront to 
" them, and to their way of education ; so that they railed at 
" me, not only in secret, but in their Acts, unmercifully for it." 
This alludes of course to the licence of the " Terrae Filii." 
In fact, says Burnet, the scheme ''raised such hatred against 
"me... and answered my expectation so little, that after I 
" had kept it up five year at the rate of £,2flo a year I saw 
" it was expedient to let it fall." 

Meanwhile Burnet did his best to prefer men of 
eminence, clerical and lay. After earnest and fruitless 
applications in favour of Peter AUix, the learned French 
Protestant, who was ready to conform, he appointed him 
treasurer of Salisbury Cathedral. Bentley, Wotton, Col- 
batch, Geddes, Craig the distinguished mathematician 
(perhaps a cousin of his own), with many others, enjoyed 
his patronage ; and though he deprecated Tanner's devo- 
tion to pure antiquarianism the author of the Notitta 
extols his generous assistance. 

For his clergy in general, his solicitude was unceasing. 
Like Wilberforce he encouraged ruri-decanal meetings and 
clerical societies ; like Wilberforce he regarded the absence 
of efficient discipline as one of the gravest blots on the 
English Church. In his own diocese he strove to grapple 
witn the corruptions of the consistorial courts, which should 
he maintained " be the means of reclaiming sinners, at least 
"of making them ashamed of their sins... but they... think 
"of nothing but of squeezing... people... by all the dilatory 
"and fraudulent ways that are possible." He tried the 
effect of constant personal attendance, but found that the 

294 m^ zeal for reform [ch. vm 

'* crooked " could not " be made straight." Exorbitant costs 
had created vested interests; and though he frequently 
paid them himself he was powerless to discharge fees even 
in vexatious suits. After some years he "gave over all 
** hope of doing any good in them " and relinquished 

To the characteristic abuses which so long had attracted 
his pen — non-residence and pluralities, the sale of advow- 
sons and the gross inequality of benefices — he now turned 
practical attention. His first injunctions to his archdeacons 
laid strong stress upon residence ; and in a very acid 
correspondence with the Warden of All Souls, who held a 
living in his diocese, he rejected even academic duties as a 
plea for inveterate absence. 

His efforts to equalise in some measure existing prefer- 
ment, anticipated the aims of the Ecclesiastical Commission ; 
and his schemes had the merit of ingenuity. "I observed," 
he says, ''that the strength of the dissenters was in the 
** market towns, where the minister's provision was so 
'' small that, according to the common observation, a poor 
living had as poor a clerk. I resolved to remedy this all I 
could, and there being many Prebends in the Church of 
Salisbury, all in the Bishop's gift, I resolved to give these 
**to the ministers of the market towns, but thought it 
'' reasonable to demand a bond of them that in case they 
*• should leave the market town they would resign the 
"prebend." He had taken excellent advice; but the cry 
of simony, raised by his ecclesiastical adversaries, was 
confirmed by the learning of Stillingfleet He gave up the 
bonds he had taken ; and finding that many of those who 
had given them did not consider themselves bound in 
honour, he let the design fall. 

He did not, however, abandon the idea of augmenting 
small livings. He appealed to private wealth, and supple- 
mented it with his usual liberality. His share in the great 
scheme known as "Queen Anne's Bounty" will be discussed 
later on ; and he encouraged the amalgamation of contiguous 
parishes when small and poorly endowed. 

The engrossers of rich and scattered sinecures, however, 
he denounced as "robbers of the Church and as living in 
"a spiritual polygamy." Such remonstrances had some 

1689-17 1 5] His liberality 295 e 

effect His son tells a pretty anecdote of his first visitation, 
where a severe quotation from St Bernard induced a high 
church pluralist to resign his second living ; an act which 
Burnet (dispensing ** poetical justice") recompensed with # 
preferment In general, however, such rebukes brought 
upon Burnet the "violent opposition" not only of actual 
pluralists but of **all who aspired to the like accumulation 
"of benefices." 

From his clergy he exacted not only Sunday duty, but 
week-day services where even two or three would attend. 
It is characteristic of the man, and of his Scotch training, 
that he still inclined to the ecclesiastical prosecution of such 
persons as attended no form of public worship. 

In especial Burnet claimed (and his claim is eloquently 
confirmed by the Jacobite Dr King, educated at Salisbury 
during his episcopate) that he had never yielded to the 
crying abuse which was becoming distinctive of the dignified 
clergy in England. He had not founded a family on 
Episcopal revenues. His children's education (even) was 
defrayed out of private income, and in fact their mother's 
fortune did not descend intact 

His charities indeed, though largely anonymous, were 
munificent. As was appropriate, his clergy had a first charge 
on them. " I set myself," he says, "to encourage my clergy 
" not only by my going often about among them, and by 
" assisting them kindly in all their concerns, but by a large 
"share of my income with which I have relieved their 
"necessities. I never renewed a lease but I gave a 
" considerable share of the fine either to the minister of the 
" parish, or, if he was well-provided, to some neighbouring 
" charity; so that I can reckon ;^3000 g^ven by me in larger 
"sums among them, besides smsdler ones that occur daily." 
The gifts to poor livings sometimes amounted to ;^ 100 at 
a time; while aged clergy and their widows were pensioned 
at his hands. 

Nor was education — technical, elementary or higher — in 
any way neglected. He laid great emphasis on apprentice- 
ship; and was a strong supporter of the charity school 
movement which was to culminate in the National Society. 
He frequently preached in its favour ; and himself " set up 
"a school for fifty poor children at Salisbury who are" (he 

296 His personal habits [ch. viii 

says^ ** taught and clothed at my charge." Strype gives 
particulars. The boys were thirty in number, the girls 
twenty. They were taught to read, to write, to cast 
accounts, to say the Catechism, and to spin and card wool ; 
so that some of the children earned i/-, others 1/6 and 2/- 
per week. The cost to the Bishop was £^0 a year ; and 
Burnet acted as his own inspector. **Igo" (he says) 
"once a month and hear ten of them repeat sucn Psalms 
" and parts of the New Testament as I prescribe ; and give 
*'them eighteenpence apiece for a reward; this is a mean 
" to keep them in good order." Nor did he fail to assist the 
University education of impecunious but promising young 

The course of his daily life during his episcopal career 
is gracefully described in the pages of his son. "His time, 
"the only treasure of which he seemed covetous, was 
"employed in one regular and uniform manner. His 
" constant health permitted him to be an early riser; he was 
" seldom in bed later than five o'clock... during the summer 
"or than six in the winter. Private meditation took up 
" the two first hours and the last half-hour of the day. His 
" first and last appearance to his family was at the morning 
" and evening prayers, which were always read by himself, 
'* though his chaplains were present. He drank his tea 
" \i.e. breakfasted] in company with his children and took 
"that opportunity of instructing them in religion ; he went 
" through the Old and New Testament with them three times, 
" giving his own comment upon some portion of it, for an 
"hour every morning.... This... over, he retired to his study, 
"where he seldom spent less than six, often more than 
" eight hours in a day." Rumour declared him an inveterate 
smoker ; and caricatures are said to exist, representing him 
with a " Churchwarden pipe " stuck through the brim of 
that shovel hat, on whose breadth William had commented. 
" The rest of his time," continues his son, " was taken up 
" with business, exercise " (a point on which he held sensible 
views) " and necessary rest ; or bestowed on friendly visits 
"and cheerful meals.... He kept an open table, on which 
" there was plenty without luxury." 

" You may very well remember, George" (adds the son 
in a private letter), "that every Sunday was solemnized at 


1689-17 IS] Hts verdict on his labours 297 

"my father's with a huge Rump of Roast Beef and an 
"overgrown Plum Pudding. I remember that, once upon 
"a time, the cook sent in a mighty diminutive pudding, 
" which disrespect to the Sabbath the Bishop could not bear. 
** Upon examination my good friend of the kitchen said in 
" his excuse ' that there was no such thing as plums to be 
" * had.' * Why then ' (says my father) * you should have 
" * made a bread pudding. For to send in such a giant-like 
*• * Rump and such a dwarf Pudding makes a very bad 
** * figure, and I had rather my pudding had been a little 
"'worse than have so great a breach of order and 
" * symmetry.' " 

" No man " (continues theZ^) " was more pleased with 
"innocent mirth... or had a larger fund of entertainment to 
"contribute towards it. His equipage, like his table, was 
" decent and plain ; and all his expenses denoted a temper 
"generous but not profuse. The Episcopal Palace, when 
he came [there], was thought one of the worst, and when he 
died was one of the best in England." Salisbury tradition 
does not, we may observe, endorse this estimate of his 
architectural efforts ; while the Jacobites sarcastically 
observed that the kitchen specially profited. 

The Bishop's own verdict on his episcopal exertions 
written at the age of 67, after an episcopate of 2 1 years, is 
touching enough. " I know I have [in my autobiography] 
" said that which may seem too much of my labours in my 
" diocese ; if it were not to lay open the injustice and malice 
"of those angry men who studied to represent me as a 
"favourer of Dissenters, who was betraying the Church 
"into their hands." Episcopal ideals, he says (thinking 
perhaps of that early Memorial^ had always engaged his 
attention ; so he had been doubly bound to avoid " the 
" beaten road " and to apply himself " by the best ways " he 
"could think on to build up and heal the breaches of this 
"church." Whatever sins, therefore, humble him before 
God, " I do not " ^he says) " know any I am guilty of with 
" relation to the Cnurch ; unless it be sins of omission, for 
" I might still have done more in every particular than 
" I have done. But this comfort I have, that I have studied 
"to put in practice the best things done by any of our 
" Bishops since the Reformation, and have not spared my 

298 stumbling-blocks, public [ch. vin 

'' person nor my purse, but have laid them out very liberally 
" at all times. Thus I have lived and laboured many years 
''and have not abated in any one particular of my first 
'' designs, but have rather increased in them all ; for at this 
*• age both memory and strength of body are still entire." 

Yet, despite these unrelaxed efforts, he doubted at the 
last, probably with truth, whether the external results of his 
labour were either great or permanent After 2 1 years so 
spent, he describes himself as "doing little good with all 
''this agitation " ; though as the old toiler manfully adds "since 
" this is the best thing I can do, I am resolved to continue 
"thus doing till I can see anything that is better.*' 

The times, indeed, were less favourable than those of 
Wilberforce to schemes of ecclesiastical revival. The wave 
of ecclesiastical idealism, so potent at the Reformation, and 
in the ensuing " Catholic " reaction, was (as Burnet bitterly 
realised) fast retreating on all hands. In especial he 
denounced, with something of prophetic solemnity, the 
advances of religious unbelief, and the parochial torpor 
creeping over the Church of England. From scandalous 
vices, he thanked heaven, the clergy were in general free ; 
but his life was made a burden by ignorance, apathy and 
sloth. Professional arrogance, moreover, mingled with 
a sordid and resdess greed for "great livings, which [men] 
"desire to hold one upon another." And the "foul sus- 
"picion of simony in the disposal of most benefices (which 
" by a carnal and secular word are called livingsy^ seemed to 
him "a dreadful thing." 

Nor were there wanting other hindrances to reform. 
Ecclesiastico-political dissensions everywhere hewed a gulf 
between the inferior clergy (mainly "rigid" in their Angli- 
canism) and an Episcopal bench which, as time went on, 
was more and more recruited from the moderate or 
Tillotsonian ischool. These aversions gained animus in 
Burnet's case on account of his supposed political apostasy ; 
not to mention the charge of heretical tendencies, which 
provides so convenient a counter-blast to unwelcome 
reforming zeal. The clerical activity, again, which in- 
duced Wilberforce at a later date to condone some ritualistic 
extravagance, was in Burnet's day more usually associated 
with indifference to ritualistic forms. And as Wilberforce's 

1689-171 5] and personal 299 

Romanist relations, cast, in the eyes of his opponents, a lurid 
light on his leniency to the extreme '* High Church" men, 
so Burnet's Presbyterian connections pointed, for his con- 
temporaries, the moral of his tenderness towards ** scrupulous 
** consciences,'* and even towards those who lived in actual 

"I was," says Burnet, **very gentle to the dissenters, 
** and received them kindly when they came to see me.... The 
** dissenters all over my diocese treated me with great respect ; 
*' they thought it due to me in gratitude, because I used them 
•'well. They were also well pleased to see a Bishop set 
** himself (as they thought I did) to advance religion. Upon 
** this, a jealousy was taken up of me as being secretly in an 
** understanding with them ; which the malice of some carried 
" so far as to give it out, that I was in a secret design to 
** betray the church to them ; and this got such credit that 
" above half my clergy acted in such an opposition to me as 
** if they had believed it. But I resolved patiently to bear 
"with what I could not correct." Yet all this while (as 
behoved the champion of Church Establishments) *' I took," 
he says, " much pains to convince [the Nonconformists] of 
'* the sin and the bad consequences of separation ; and I 
*• brought many off from that way." Whole families in his 
diocese (so his son declares), were drawn into the com- 
munion of the church ; while of two dissenting ministers 
(well supported when he came to Salisbury) one soon left 
the place, and the other found but a poor subsistence there. 

And moreover, in addition to other sources of dis- 
couragement, Burnet was hampered by his own characteristic 
defects. Like most men of strong views, he incurred, in the 
first place, the charge of favouring his '* creatures." Rebuke, 
too, of the ** superior " sort comes better from a saint than 
from a very fallible fellow Christian. Again, Burnet ob- 
viously lacked the personal weight, the personal magnetism 
which marks the leader among men. With all the adminis- 
trative energy of a Wilberforce, he had none of his 
administrative skill. With the moral aspiration of an 
Arnold, he had no compelling ascendancy. With the high 
but sane idealism, the robust common-sense of a Temple, he 
had none of his overwhelming power. With the wide 
sympathies, the extensive learning of a Stanley, he wanted 

300 State of England in October 1690 [ch. viii 

his exquisite charm. Tactless, precipitate and occasionally 
choleric he was perpetually at odds with his inferiors ; and 
in an existing — and very acrimonious — correspondence with 
his Dean, the latter, whatever the merits of the case, has 
certainly the advantage in temper. 

From the summary view of Burnet's diocesan activity we 
must turn back to October 1690, when the new King returned 
from Ireland bearing the laureJs_.of the Boyne and the 
stigma of the Limerick failure, j With his usual enterprise 
feurnet applied to Court friends, and even to the King 
himself, for details of the campaign ; but his attempt to fix 
the onus of responsibility for certain " regrettable incidents '' 
was met by the sovereign with a silence which would have 
daunted another man. Burnet was, however, almost im- 
mediately placed on a Commission of ecclesiastics, appointed 
to settle Church affairs in the newly-conquered island; 
a question as to which Burnet had expressed great 
solicitude. They were specially instructed to insist on the 
obligation of residence \ a point on which the Queen felt 

The state of feeling elicited by the events of the year is 
illustrated in a letter written by Burnet (soon after the 
commencement of the Session) to that energetic ** Revolu- 
" tion" agent, his cousin, James Johnston, at this time envoy 
to Brandfenburg ; it is dated London, October -JJ, 1 690. 

** I have been now," he says, " a week in town, and have 

*'had leisure and opportunities to inform myself of our 

" affairs and of the temper of people's minds among us ; and 

** I must freely own to you, that I was never more surprised 

" in my whole life than I am to see the House of Commons 

" in such a temper. All that I know say plainly, they dare 

" not go back into their country if they do not give money 

" liberally ; so they have already voted above four millions.... 

" In a word, the French fleet, by lying so long on our coast, 

*'as it then did us no harm\ so now produces such effects 

"as if we had brought them thither; since it has both 

** united and animated the nation to a degree beyond 

I *^- anything that the most sanguine could ever have promised 

1 ** themselves. And the King's behaviour in Ireland, as 

I ** well as King James his meanness, has made so wonderful 

^ * Save the burning of a fishing village. 

i68sH^] The NoH-juring Bishops 301 ^ 

** a change in aU men's minds with relation to them bothT^ ^ 
" that we seem now not to be the same people that we were { 
•'a year ago...." *"^ 

The question of immediate urgency and that on which 
Burnet's chief anxiety centred was the attitude of the 
Government to the still suspended Bishops. Bumet» as we 
have seen, was himself passionately desirous to avert a 
definite schism, and his own relations with the non-juring 
clergy of his diocese appear to have been on the whole 
amicable. Of the five within his jurisdiction who refused 
the oaths, four belonged to the moderate and reluctant 
school which contented itself with a tacit protest afi[ainst the 
new setdement ; and of these one retained his living till 
his death in 1694, the equivalent of his prebend being paid 
him from the Bishop's purse. A second was suffered to 
occupy his prebendal stall a year after it was l^^ally for- 
feited, and continued to serve his cure by means of a 
curate. The third had leave to nominate his own suc- 
cessor; the fourth, who did not long survive, received, in 
the interval, **all possible regard." With the fifth, how- 
ever, who represented the militant *• Jacobite" section of 
the non-juring party, Burnet was soon at daggers drawn ; 
but to this we shall refer later on. 

For the nine non-juring prelates, meanwhile, Burnet 
entertained a respect which was not unmingled with 
admiration ; since five of these had ranked among the 
famous "Seven," who had ** passively" resisted James II. 
We are aware of Burnet's efforts, during the summer of 
1689, to secure a compromise ; and when it seemed certain 
that these must prove abortive, we find him ruefully 
bewailing the obstinacy of the Reverend Fathers in a Latin 
epistle to Van Limborch. We observe, with real amusement, 
the dignified reprobation which Burnet now accords to 
doctrines which he had himself so recently held. 

"As for the Bishops" (he had written) "who are so 
*' much in love with slavery that they will not suffJer men's 
" necks to be withdrawn from the yoke, the case is lament- 
" able indeed. For they are men of extraordinary worth in 
"all that concerns true piety, sound learning, and firmness 
" in time of affliction. But with what pertaineth to matters 
"of State, and secular affairs, they are, I confess, less 

302 Burnet and Ken [ch. vm 

" conversant. For they have such reverence for the Royal 
''Authority (as derived from and vicarial to God» and to 
"him alone responsible), that there is little hope of con- 
•'verting them from an error no less fatal to our interest 
'*than to theirs." 

A month later (when they had incurred the preliminary 
"suspension") Burnet seems to have accepted what 
Dean Plumptre calls a ''roving Commission" to act as 
Commissary for such of the Bishops as held sees marching 
with his own. Dr Frampton of Gloucester, and the saintly 
Ken of Bath and Wells are specially mentioned in this 
connection ; and Burnet plumed himself on the respectful 
deference he had displayed for those "two Reverend 
" Persons," whom he esteemed, despite his difference in 
views, "for what is truly valuable in them." On October i, 
1689, he had written to Ken, describing himself as Ken's 
del^;ate, pledged to carry out his " orders " ; and had taken 
the occasion to evince his deep regret at finding his 
Lordship "so unhappily possessed with that which is likely 
" to prove so fatal to the Church, if we are deprived of one 
"that has served it with so much honour as you have 
"done.... I pray God" (he had pathetically added) **[to] 
"prevent a new breach in a church which has suffered so 
"severely under the old one" of 1662; especially at a 
moment when the impending Commission gave, as Burnet 
conceived, good hopes of initiating some sorely needed 

So far, so good ; but Burnet, as too often happened, had 
proceeded to spoil a really appropriate appeal by a gross 
absence of tact Not only did he touch on more or less 
authenticated rumours, which had credited Ken with some 
oscillation on the point; but he had added, that the 
coincidence of Ken's final decision with the date of a visit 
to London "gave great advantages to those who were 
"so severe as to say, that there was something else than 
"conscience at the bottom." 

Even the proverbial "patience of a saint" could not 
brook this clumsy affront ; and Ken replied in terms of 
drastic sarcasm. He had, so he owned, experienced some 
vacillation, and had prepared a paper of reasons, as prelude 
to a possible change of front. For he had (as he pointedly 

1689-90 A modus Vivendi declined 303 

observes) been ''scandalized at many persons of our own 
** coat, who for several years. . .preached up passive obedience 
'' to a much greater height than ever I did... and on a sudden, 
*• without the least acknowledgement of their past error, 
" preached and acted quite the contrary." He confesses an 
inability to conceive what "particular passion of corrupt 
'* nature" can induce a decision ruinous to those con- 
cerned ; and fears such reproaches may recoil on their 
authors. He thinks the peace of the Church will be best 
secured by compassionating and supporting "her sister of 
** Scotland"; and prays God to make Burnet an instrument 
of peace and charity, though Ken himself can only assist 
that good work by prayers against *' schism and sacrilege.*' 

This little passage of arms explains the rather faint 
praise with which the History of my own Time pays 
tribute to the excellent Ken. 

Meanwhile the Government was straining every nerve to 
secure a modus vivendi. During the summer of 1690 the 
Queen had entrusted to Burnet an important n^otiation. 
If he could procure from the Bishops an assurance of their 
tacit acquiescence in the new settlement, and resumption 
of their functions under it, a bill would be drafted to exempt 
them from the oaths. Burnet, aware that he was himself 
no acceptable intermediary, conferred with the Bishops' 
confidants. But the Bishops regarded the powers tjiat were 
as the accursed thing ; and definitely declined the overture. 
Early in the following spring (1691) the discovery of 
intercourse between certain of these Bishops and the 
exiled Court of St Germains brought matters to a head ; 
it was resolved to "deprive" the hitherto "suspended" 
Bishops, and appoint to their Sees. 

The opposite difficulty confronted Burnet himself in the 
economy of his own See. The sole representative of 
aggressive Jacobitism among his clergy was Dr Beach, 
a wealthy and well-born divine, of good character and 
some learning. He had obstinately refused to relinquish 
his living when so required ; and stormy interviews took 
place at the Episcopal Palace, during which Burnet, it is 
clear, completely lost his temper. On April 6, 1691, Burnet 
wrote to the Attorney-General. He described Beach as 
a "pest to the countiy" and as likely to "wear out" the 

I 304 Burnet and Beach [ch. viii 

new presentee. He charged him with omitting from the 
^ Liturgy prayers for the Sovereigns — with traducing them 
to his parishioners — and with msolent disrespect to his 
Ordinary; and begged that he might be called before the 
Council as one notoriously disaffected. Nay, if we may 
credit Beach, the Bishop went even further; and actually 
employed agents to collect evidence against the recusant. 
At length (on the charge, apparently, of seditious lan- 
guage). Beach was arrested ; and though released on bail, 
was eventually convicted at Salisbury, on the evidence of 
a single witness, during Lent Term 169 1-2. 

Meanwhile, Burnet's real end had been attained ; for 
the new incumbent, immediately upon Beach's arrest, had, 
after a slight scuffle, received induction. Burnet therefore 
sent a kind message, offering to ** rescue" Beach from 
further prosecution. For this *'no less generous than 
" acceptable " offer, he received grateful thanks ; and an 
implied undertaking to keep the peace in future. Here- 
upon he exerted his influence for the stay of proceedings. 
The Government, however, demanded a public submission, 
which Beach declined ; and as Burnet refused to intervene 
further. Beach, through Tory friends, obtained a NolU 
prosequi. He settled at Salisbury ; and with Burnet's 
connivance, held services in his own house. He continued 
to abuse Burnet in rancorous terms ; Jacobite friends 
frushed into print on his behalf ; and a violent controversy 
/ensued, of which echoes may be caught some half a century 
\ later. 

Turning again, however, to the general question, it 
now remained to be seen whether the King, in supplying 
the vacant Sees, would attempt to conciliate the extreme 
Church party or would fall back on Tillotsonian moderates. 
The dilemma was hardly an open one ; for *' rigid " Church- 
men in general would have declined (as did Beveridge) to 
accept Sees made vacant on a secular quarrel. Great was 
Burnet's relief when the appointments were gazetted ; for 
they were such as he would himself have desired, Tillotson, 
with unfeigned reluctance, for his health was failing and 
his temper pacific to a fault, was raised to the invidious 
eminence whence Sancroft perforce descended. Political 
differences at a subsequent date affected Burnet's estimate 

1690-2] The two National Churches 305 

of Sharp, who had been raised to the metropolitan chair of 
York ; but on the whole he concludes ** in two years time 
'' the King has made fifteen bishops ; and excepting what is 
"to be said as to myself, it is visible that they are the 
" worthiest and learnedest men, the best preachers, and the 
** men of the gentlest and prudentest tempers that could be 
"found.... It was also observed that these were men not 
** past fifty, whereas generally men had not been promoted 
" formerly till their strength and parts began to sink with 
"age." The subsidiary appointments gave him equal 
pleasure; the King, he felt, stood committed to ecclesiastical 
moderation ; "for he had made now so many good and 
"moderate Bishops that he had rendered it impracticable 
" to think of violent and high counsels, for want of proper 
" instruments." 

Meanwhile, in Scotland, the course of Church affairs 
brought to Burnet bitter disappointment. The legal 
establishment of Presbytery he knew to be inevitable ; and 
though, in previous writings, he had more than once 
described episcopacy as of "Right Divine," in practice he 
regarded acquiescence in the new order as preferable to a 
National Schism. He is said, on somewhat dubious 
evidence, to have advised the acceptance of Presbyterian 
orders by Scotch aspirants for the ministry ; and as he had 
formerly striven for the comprehension of moderate Presby- 
terians within the limits of an Episcopal Church, so he now 
laboured for the retention of moderate Episcopalians 
within the bounds of a Presbyterian Establishment. But 
the intolerant spirits of the Presbyterian leaders mortified 
and repelled him the warm-hearted Erastian. In a letter 
(of which we only possess a summary, in parts obviously 
incorrect), he inveighs against the furious temper of the 
Scottish Presbyterians and their continual acts of violence 
against the Episcopal clergy ; which, as he apprehended, 
would engage the English nation to re-establish episcopacy 
in Scotland at the earliest opportunity. And in his letter 
of October ^, 1690, to his cousin Johnston, a professed, if 
not a very orthodox, Presbyterian, Burnet laments that 
"the Presbytery of Scotland proceeds with so blind a 
"fury that... they will raise a flame here, which may 
"obstruct the King's business in England, and may very 

B. 90 

(3^6 Glencoe — Mr Secretary Johnston [ch. viii 

**much increase the animosities that are among us." His 
Memoirs, again (brought up to date August 1691), record 
his erroneous impression that the '* heat and folly " of the 
Presbyterians had more ** effectually weaned" Scotland 
"from the fondness it had to their government" than 
**all that had been done against Presbytery in a course 
**of many years." All that Burnet could do, he did. 
He exerted himself to procure preferment in Ulster for 
the dispossessed Episcopal clergy; and started a private 
collection in his diocese on their behalf, in which his clergy 
refused to concur because it was not official. Had it been 
so, however, it would at once have assumed undue political 

Two tasks meanwhile confronted the harassed Ministry 
for Scotland. The violence of extreme Presbyterianism 
had to be curbed ; the Highlanders (in general "Jacobite" 
and Episcopal where not Papistical) had to be reduced. 
Under the patronag^e of the Scoto- Dutch group which ruled 
Scotland from Whitehall, the Master of Stair became 
Secretary for Scotland, charged with this double duty. 
His Highland policy involved, as it were alternatively, the 
methods of bribery and blandishment on the one hand — on 
the other the cruel old expedient "letters of fire and 
"sword." The last as the more drastic appealed to the 
callous Secretary; who regarded the Highlands much as 
some American officials have regarded the Indian reserves. 
But the Highlanders prudently succumbed ; and the 
treachery with which, in February 1692, Dalrymple 
wreaked his own disappointment, and the malice of a 
Highland confederate, on the Macdonalds of Glencoe, is a 
matter of terrible notoriety. The tragedy was for months 
a mere rumour, save to those immediately concerned ; and 
during this interval, as a sop to Presbyterian discontent, 
James Johnston, Burnet's cousin, became Dalrymple's co- 
secretary. Through him Burnet secured some insight into 
Scottish affairs, and a slight degree of influence over them. 

Meanwhile, the summer of 1691 had been signalized by 
the complete subjugation of Ireland ; and on November 26 
Burnet, at Whitehall, had preached the Thanksgiving 

The enthusiasm of the preceding year was now on the 

1691-2] Burnet on Marlborough's disgrace 307 } 

wane. The termination of the Irish war lessened the ^ 
pressure of national anxiety. It rendered men — the Tories -r 
more especially — less keen on the European coalition — 
more sensible of the enormous dram* it entailed on the 
national resources ; more inclined to purely naval 
operations — more jealous of the continental King. The 
Whigs on their part resented his dictatorial temper and 
avowed preference for the Tories ; while the whole nation / 
smarted under his sullen discourtesy and predilection for/ 
all things Dutch. In the army, Churchill, now Lora 
Marlborough, important through his military exploits and 
his wife's influence over Princess Anne, and alienated by 
the belief that his services had been scantily requited, 
entered into secret intercourse with St Germain ; and, 
in public, made himself the mouthpiece of discontent. 
The Session of 169 1-2 gave the Court extreme trouble; 
and "about the end" the King, with startling suddenness, 
'* called for Marlborough's commissions and dismissed him 
** out of his service." 

The disgust with which Burnet in 1688 had regarded 
Churchill's perfidy (a disgust, we may notice, very generally 
shared), had by now but little abated. During 1691, 
while recording in his Memoirs Marlborough's plea of justi- 
fication, and acknowledging his ability, Burnet had described 
him as self-interested and grasping; and had referred to 
his wife's domination over the Princess Anne in terms 
decidedly sarcastic. On the subject of Marlborough's 
dismissal the comments of his Memoirs (under date Sep- 
tember 1693) are very explicit. "The King said to myself 
" upon it, that he had very good reason to believe that he 
'' had made his peace with King James, and was engaged 
"in a correspondence with France. It is certain he was 
"doing all he could to set on a faction in the army and 
"nation against the Dutch, and to lessen the King ; [and 
" that he] as well as his wife who.. .seemed to be the 
" mistress of her whole heart and thoughts, were alienating 
"[the princess] both from the King and Queen. The 
'* queen had taken all possible methods to gain her sister... 
" except the purchasing her favourite, which she thought 
" below her to do." Affection for Lady Marlborough, how- 
ever, " being the strongest passion in the princess's breast, 

308/ La Hogue [ch.viii 

' all other ways proved ineffectual, so a visible coolness 

* erew between the sisters.... Upon Marlborough's disgrace 

* his wife was ordered to leave the Court ; this the princess 

* resented so highly that she left the Court like wise... and 
*the distance between the sisters is now risen" to its 

With 1692 came a summer of intense apprehension. 
A projected French invasion, timed to concur with a 
Jacobite rising in England, was heralded by a singularly 
injudicious proclamation on the part of the exiled King : 
and the names of Burnet and Tillotson appear in the 
tensive list of those specifically excepted from pardon. 
/Such reiterated proscription naturally intensified the anti- 
Cj[acobite fervour of the proscribed. 

V On May 24, meanwhile, our countrymen, in the great 

jnaval action off La Hogue, frustrated the scheme of France. 

jThe Queen desired Burnet to prepare a Thanksgiving 

/ Sermon ; and suggested as a topic, the Israelites at the Red 

|Sea. Such a sermon he actually sketched; and though, 

oy his own wish, another preacher was substituted — since 

Burnet, who had already preached two Thanksgiving 

Sermons, feared the post might seem a-begging — he 

included the discourse in a subsequently. pyblished^vpi^^ 

fit is highly significant. The passionate dread of a French 

\ or Irish invasion tinges nearly every line ; and for the first 

Uime we trace an almost vindictive animosity against the 

^acobite allies of the foreigners. 

Nor was Burnet's ** Revolution" ardour lessened by the 
evidence which suggested, rightly or wrongly, that James II 
had been the accomplice of urandvaFs murder plot against 

Meanwhile, a more personal topic had evoked one of 
his finest efforts. The death of the saintly Boyle, the 
** father of modern chemistry," became early in 1692 the 
text of a celebrated discourse. This embodies the 
preacher s attitude towards that " experimental " science, of 
which he was himself a somewhat desultory devotee. 
Boyle is to him one who had "joined two things, that how 
** much soever they may seem related, yet have been found 
** so seldom together that the world has been tempted to 
** think them inconsistent.'' For in him had been seen **a 

1692] Burftefs tribute to Boyle 3094 

** constant looking into nature and a yet more constant 
** study of religion," either reacting on the other. With 
great cogency Burnet elaborates the materialistic conclu- 
sions suggested by the dependence of mental on mechanical 
and biological function. But with a metaphysical acumen 
such as he rarely displays, he dilates on the idealistic 
reverse of the materialistic medal. "The flight and 
" compass " of a self-conscious intellect ; ** ...the vast crowd 
**of figures that lie in a very narrow comer of the brain... 
'* the strange reaches of the mind in abstracted speculations, 
** and the amazing progress that is made from some simple 
"truths into theories that are the admiration... of the 
" thinking part of mankind ; the sagacity of apprehending 
"and judging... and which is above all the strength that a 
" few thoughts do spread into the mind by which it is made 
"capable of doing or suffering the hardest things"; all 
this is transcendent, and on purely mechanical principles, 
incomprehensible. Upon the fascination of intellectual 
adventure the preacher is singularly happy. " He," says 
Burnet, "who is upon the true scent of real and useful 
"knowledge has always some great thing or other in 
" prospect" And though the intellectual ascent but reveals 
more clearly " the weakness of our short-sighted powers " 
and throws difficulties into relief which simplicity ignores, 
even here is compensation. It is **a real pleasure to a 
"searcher after Truth — to be undeceived." 

At this moment, moreover, a far more exacting task wgs 
on Burnet s literary anvil. During the winter of 1691 
the Queen had been studying with peculiar interest, some 
work of the Bishop's which we are not able to identify ; 
and had joined with Tillotson in urging Bur net to 
undertake a manual on the Pastoral Care^/T^Ke Bishop 
accepted with alacrity so congenial a suggestion ; and about 
the end of March 1692 must have written to Tillotson, 
announcing the birth of twin daughters and the completion 
of the proposed manuscript Tillotson returns his 
congratulations in one of the wise and gracious letters 
which explain, better than his now wearisome sermons, the 
source of his contemporary influence. " I do heartily 
" congratulate with your Lordship the birth of your two 
" daughters and especially the safety of the good mother.... 


/JIqe B timet writes mi the Pastoral Care [ch. viu 

'' I find your Lordship hath been in travail too, and I doubt 

*' not but have brought forth a man-child. I shall be glad 

** to see him. I wonder you can have any dispute where 

''to dedicate it Not that I should not be proud of it 

** But nobody must come in competition with the gpod_ 

f'Q^xxiy who so well deserves adl the respect that can be 

■ * * ,^i3 Tier y ^ .Jjesides thiat I ha^ve a curfosity to see ffi e^slclir 

" orVour pen on so tender a point" as It will be to d o her 

''Majesty right without grating upon her modesty.*^ On 

v,|Aprif 12 Tillotson wrote again, highly applauding the manu- 

/^Clipk " I saw no reason to make any alteration in the whole, 

^ " saving the putting in of one word, and the changing of 

' ** another; so moderately have I used that unlimited power 

"you entrusted me with. The work is... perfect in its 

"kind.... It will I hope do much good at present, and much 

" more when you and I are dead and gone. I pray Grod to 

** reward you for it On Friday last I left it with the 

" Queen to whom I read the Conclusion, which she will 

\ "by no means allow ; nor anything more than a bare 

V* Dedication. S he say s, she knpws you^ can ui^_ no 

"moderation in spealciiig '^ oX. . her^ So resolute and 

^lijunaffected a modesty I never^saw^" Burnet had of course 

to yield ; and the existing Dedication is chastened, as 1 7th 

century dedications go. 

The book was licensed May 5, 1692 ; and must have 
appeared soon after. Tillotson's eulogy of the work — which 
Burnet too, with an acumen rare in authors, preferred to 
his other writings — is not overstrained. Simple, fervent, 
and sincere, the passionate solicitude of the author for 
the reform of the pastoral ideal lends force and unity to the 
whole. It points with pathetic intensity the supreme 
convictions of his life ; and every sentence glows with an 
ardour of spiritual fire. 

A brief but admirable sketch of the mediaeval corruptions 
which had dimmed the primitive ideals, and of their re- 
suscitation by Protestant enthusiasm, leads us to the gradual 
slackening of Protestant zeal, and to the recrudescence of 
clerical energy in the Romanist Counter- Reformation. 
When we remember that Burnet was above all things the 
champion of the Reformation, the courageous candour of 
this section is specially remarkable. Nor is clerical 

1692] Ideals and abuses 311 

sloth, in his eyes, less responsible for the '^ Atheism and 
** Impiety'* so rapidly gaining ground. For Burnet sees 
"a circulation'' in the ''general corruption of nations." 
Ages of ignorant brutality beget eras of idolatrous 
superstition ; these give birth to the austerity of a fanatic 
zeal, the source of hypocrisy ; and religious cant, especially 
in the clergy, leads to a sceptical reaction. For clerical 
corruption persuades the world (to Burnet's own know- 
ledge) that the very apologists of the faith do not really hold 
the doctrines, which they profess merely for hire. More- 
over (urges Burnet), the due performance of clerical duty 
will raise the status of the ministry. Men will be ashamed 
to haggle over the pittance then too often grudged — 
sometimes even withheld — by some (the Quakers^ out of 
principle ; " by others out of downright and unaisguised 
"sacrilege." Such reforms, again, would go tar to 
convert the Dissenters ; who will not yield to mere boasts 
''that the Church of England is the... best... Church in the 
" world." 

Burnet next rapidly sketches the original aims of the 
Christian pastorate, drawing largely on Gregory of 
Nazianzen, Chrysostom, and Jerome. In the same section 
we find an interesting biographical reference to the counsels 
of Charteris. Burnet then proceeds to attack existing 
clerical abuses, and is specially severe upon the Act of 
Parliament [21 Henry VIII] on which pluralists relied. No 
Act of Parliament can override a moral obligation ; the Or- 
dination Service — (subsequendy issued) — with its allusions 
to residence, practically repeats the Act ; and in any case, 
those stricter churchmen who " seem to have a particular 
"jealousy of the Civil Power's breaking in too far upon 
'*the Ecclesiastical authority" can hardly plead statutes 
against the voice of the Church. That voice, as far as the 
Church of England is concerned, Burnet finds in her 
public offices ; which seem to him more cogent in their 
clerical exhortations than those of any church, in any age. 
In language of concentrated scorn, he lashes those who, 
while ridiculing as " enthusiastical " the idea of a divine 
vocation, will give an affirmative answer to the demands of 
the Ordination Service. " They come to Christ " (he says) 
*' for the loaves... therefore they will say anything for 

312 The training of a Goad Pastor [ch. viii 

''qualifying them to this." In forcible terms he portrays 
the misery of one tied for life to a profession secretly 
loathed; and the happiness of the Good Pastor absorbed 
in congenial duties. 

As r^^ards preparation for orders it is, he says, of two 
kinds ; that of heart and soul ; that of intellect The 
former ranks as the more indispensable ; since a good man, 
moderately endowed but suitably employed, may do great 
service ; *' whereas unsanctified knowleage puffs up." As 
handbooks for the Ordination student, he recommends the 
Offices, philosophical treatises and ConsolcUtons of Cicero ; 
— the Latin Satirists, who teach detestation of vice ; — the 
Moralists, Hieracles, Plutarch, Epictetus and Marcus 
Aurelius. As respects Christian ethics he commends 
[AUestree's] Whole Duty of Man, then still anonymous ; 
the works of Sherlock and Scott ; and " one small book 
''more, which is to me ever new and fresh, gives always 
*'good thoughts and a noble temper, Tfiomas d Kempis of 
''the Imitation of Christ'' As biblical commentators 
he suggests Grotius, and Hammond, Lightfoot, Pearson, 
Barrow, Towerson, Patrick ; and two or three doctrinal 
synopses. The student should choose such as represent 
different standpoints (Turretin, perhaps, for the Calvinistic 
hypothesis, Van Limborch for the Arminian, the Theses of 
Saumur for the Via Media) ; and ** use his own reason " 
by balancing the various views. For the Atheistic and 
Deistic controversies he suggests Wilkins, Grotius on The 
Truth of the Christian Religion, Stillingfleet's Origines 
Sacra. As practical teachers he prefers Sanderson, 
Farringdon, Barrow and Hammond. 

Turning next to the labours of the ordained he opines 
that to the true pastor '^ his friends and his garden ought 
;' to be his chief diversions, as his study and his parish ought 
"to be his chief employment" Intellectual improvement 
indeed is too often hindered by a cruel poverty, which 
interdicts the acquisition of books. Burnet points out 
however that in not a few parishes. Jewel's Works and the 
Book of Martyrs (which " lie tearing " in the Churches) 
might well be utilised for purposes of study. To those 
more happily circumstanced he proposes the Apologies and 
Epistles of the Fathers ; the Sermons of Basil and 

1692] The Offices — Discipline — Sennofis 313 

Chrysostom ; History, English, Ecclesiastical, Jewish, 
Greek, and Roman. The classics and Buchanan (though 
the "sorrows of our childhood") are yet ** among the best 
'' of books " ; and medical studies are invaluable to the 
country parson. 

As regards his liturgical duties ''an inward and feeling 
** sense of those things that are prayed for," will 
induce a gravity, slowness and emphasis equally remote 
from the ** theatrical way" of Rome, and the perfunctori- 
ness which so often brought against the services of the 
English Church the charge of formality. 

Respecting excommunication Burnet neatly observes, 
that the avowed deficiency of the Church of England as 
respects ** godly discipline," is consistent with actual 
auUiority for a good deal more than is ever put in practice ; 
and hints that men will scarcely enlarge the sphere of 
clerical censure, while administered by the corrupt Courts 
Christian. His theory, that a deathbed repentance gives 
no claim to the evangelical promises, is here qualified by 
the suggestion that the uncovenanted mercies in Christ may 
avail ** at least to the lessening \the sinner' s\ misery in another 
'* stated He writes sensibly of hypochondriac penitents, 
common in town, the victims of "an inactive course of 
"life, in which their minds work too much, because their 
** bodies" work too little. Medical advice and cheerful society 
will do more for these than spiritual exhortations. 

Next follows a chapter on preaching. This is in 
effect an admirable little essay on " extempore " eloquence, 
which might be commended, in the interests of a long- 
sufferino^ laity, to most parsons who "preach without 
" book.' — " A preacher," says Burnet, " is to fancy himself 
''in the room of the most unlearned man in his... parish." 
Yet those that have talent must improve it; the orators, 
in especial Demosthenes, will repay careful study. He 
advises those who cannot preach well to read other 
men's sermons — with&ut acknowledgment. 

In fine (with a modesty amusing enough when we 
recall 1666) he excuses himself from dilating on the 
function of Bishops ; having " been too few years in the 
"higher order to... teach them from whom I shall ever 
'*be ready to learn." But he cannot conclude without a 

#3H Results of the publication [ch^viu 

touching tribute to Leighton, from whom he had derived 
the ideals which had been^ he says, the '' chief subject of 
" my thoughts for above thirty years." 

As r^[ards the results of the work Burnet could '' thank 

**God" it had "had a good effect on many persons/' 

rT^evertheless, as he sardonically observes, " it helped not a 

I '' little to heighten the indignation of bad clergymen against 

" me ; they looked on it as writ on design to expose them 

'* to the nation ; for reformation and moderation are the 

" two things that bad clercymen hate the most." Nor was 

the odium which he thus mcurred otherwise than enhanced 

by puritanical proclamations against drunkenness and 

Sabbath-breach issued in the Royal name during the spring 

LqL 1692. These, as a Tory annotator sarcastically hinted, 

/ **savour[ed] so much of John Knox's doctrines and 

I ** practice, tnat Burnet was thought to have been the chief 

i^* contriver." 

It is in fact during the year 1693 ^^ ^^ ^^^ perceive 
in Burnet's Memoirs and correspondence traces of the 
passionate detestation with which the " rigid " clerical 
majority regarded the new or " moderate " school which 
almost monopolized preferment. We may instance the 
enthusiastic (Latin) letter in which Burnet (with apologies 
for some years silence, during which leisure and means of 
communication have never seemed to coincide^) greets Van 
Limborch's Latin History of the Inquisition and its 
appreciative dedication to Tillotson. — *' While we yet 
"discussed the subject," he says, **you were designing a 
'' short treatise, or a long introduction, animadverting on 
" the zealous spirit which breathes fire and slaughter and 
''tracing its progress. But as in all things you far 
" transcend the hopes even of your friends, you have now 
''favoured us with an entire volume, which leaves nothing 
"unsaid.... God grant your success may be proportionate. 
"It is a scandal that so many among^ the Reformed, whp 
" are always, and justly, taxing the Cnurch of Rome with 
"cruelty, should act in the very same spirit whenever they 
" have the power. They do not see, or they will not acknow- 
" ledge, that the Papists, who claim Infallibility, are less 

^ During the war, it must be remembered, communication with the Con- 
tinent was irregular. 

1692-3] Zi? V an Liniborchon the odium theologicum 315 

'* guilty and more consistent in their fury than those who. 
'' if you take them at their word, admit themselves liable to 
** error. Judged by their deeds, however, they claim the 
" power of deciding and pronouncing what must be believed. 
** The book is a worthy successor to those with which you 
** have hitherto favoured the world, and is dedicated to one 
** worthy of the honour ; one naturally mild, and so far 
" edified by the spirit of the Gospel that he seems born to 
"heal the wounds of our Church, and its divisions. But 
* * theological rancour bears sway on every hand ; and 
** masked by a show of zeal deceives some and carries away 
" many ; so that hardly, or not even hardly, dare we 
"prophesy smooth things concerning the Church's peace. 
"The French refugees among us, desperate as is their 
''condition, seem as mad as they do with you. Some 
" restraint has been put on them. Their quarrels however 
" are not yet composed ; they were too deeply rooted. 
" Some in the pulpit ^ have ranked it among the marks of a 
" heretic that he is wonderfully anxious about morality and 
" good life. Blessed heretics are they, and truly Catholic, 
*' who are informed by such a spirit. But I restrain 
** myself, remembering whom I address." Nine months 
later he returns to the chaise : " What you say concerning 
** the ruin of Christendom, the violence of party spirit, and 
" the mad rage of zealots is true, alas, too true ! Few there 
" be that either perceive or understand the spirit and ends 
" of our religion. The rest think it hard to put off sinful 
" lusts, and transform ill habits into better ; to tear the 
"affections from things of earth, and lift up their hearts to 
*• the City which is on high. For thoug^h these are the 
" grand interests of our religion few lay their necks to this 
"yoke. Other things therefore are sought, by which the 
" Powers above may be appeased, and men beguiled. 
" Among these, zeal for pure faith and doctrine ranks so 
'^ high, that under this mask anything may be done without 
" detection or at least with impunity. Nor can any salve be 
"found for this ill, until the Churches are possessed by 
*' quite a new spirit ; since now for the most part they are 
** Christian in name only." 

* Or, in talk (pro condone). The author is indebted to Dr Gee for the 
sense of this somewhat obscure passage. 

3 1 6 Parliamentary passion [ch. vin 

The passions to which Burnet here alludes had been 
fanned from many quarters. The Session of 1692-3 had 
proved exceptionally stormy. Heavy as were the war 
taxes, the Treasury reaped a meagre harvest ; fraud and 
mismanagement being held accountable for the deficit* 
The King's unpopularity increased as rapidly as did hatred 
of the Dutch ; which the Steinkirk disaster intensified 
almost to frenzy. As William still remained faithful to the 
custom of what we should now call coalition ministries, the 
permanent antagonism of Whig and Tory complicated in 
Council as in Parliament the quarrel of the Ins and Outs. 
When we add to these causes of dissension, the constant 
struggle between Lords and Commons, and the perpetual 
recrimination between professional seamen and civilian 
Secretaries of State (who took the place of the modern 
War-office as the scape-goat of national discontent) we 
realise something of the rancorous vituperation which 
seemed the atmosphere of the hour. 

Through all however, thanks to bribery direct or 
indirect, the Government majority in the Lower House was 
attaining enormous proportions. The opposition, though 
split into factions, at length managed to unite in a combined 
attack on the majority. A Place Bill was accordingly 
introduced ; framed so as to exclude from Parliament any 
member taking Government employ. 

Parliamentary corruption was a topic on which Burnet 
felt so strongly that he had even ventured to remonstrate 
with William himself. He saw however that the Bill must 
cleave a gulf between the Executive and the Lower House ; 
so he no doubt assisted to defeat the Bill in the Upper 

Per contra he applauded the Triennial Bill, which 
required a General Election every three years ; for long- 
lived Parliaments (so Burnet argued) grow necessarily 
factious or venal. Moreover he hoped that frequent elections 
would render men less eager to debauch the constituencies ; 
and would give the latter a hold upon the conduct of their 
Parliamentary representatives. It is less clear what he 
thought of the clause determining the sitting Parliament ; 
which was indeed the kernel of the measure to its promotors. 
William, recognising their tactics, calmly vetoed the Bill. 

1692-3] The Pastoral Letter is burnt 317) 

This Session also saw the birth of a National Debt7\ 
Swift, who abhorred both the system and the Bishop, \ ^ 
made the latter responsible for the formen But financiers^ 
like Montague and Godolphin did not, as N|acaulay puts 
it, stand in need of a tyro's advice. 

Meanwhile the passions of the hour had brought upon 
Burnet a very personal mortification. A curious jntrigue, 
elaborately investigated by Macaulay^ brought the licenser of 
books into conflict with the House of Commons. He had 
given his imprimatur to a high " Tory " work (written, says 
Burnet, with "great modesty and judgment"), which . 
justified the existing settlement on the plea of conquesLj 
In his defence, he adduced previous works equally explicTtj 
on the topic ; Burnet g _first P(^toral LffUr being among { 
the number. A half-insane member (who, at odds with/ 
the Queen, hated Burnet as her supposed confidant), pressedf 
the point vehemently home, and the passions of the House 
were excited. Only an intervening Act of Grace hinderec 
a summons to the bar of the House ; indeed one extreme 
Whig would have impeached him, and forced him to plead' 
the pardon. But he had doughty champions ; Montague, 
leader of the Whigs, and Finch, a strong Tory, combined . 
in his defence, and the debate was duly adjourned. On its ■ 
resumption the fate of his Letter was settled by a bad pun. 
A facetious member ejaculated " Burn-it ! Burn-it ! " ; and a , 
motion to that effect passed by 162 to 155. 

Presumably Burnet applied for the protection of his 
own House ; and alternatively for leave to defend himself at 
the Commons' bar. A Whig opponent hereupon sarcastically 
replied, that his Right Reverend Brother was welcome to 
be *' tossed in a blanket." Burnet rhetorically appealed to 
the judgment of the Great Assize; and Halifax with a 
cruel elaboration which convulsed even William with 
laughter, reminded the prelate that he could claim no seat^ 
on that bench. Bishop Patrick meanwhile strongly \ 
supported his colleague ; and described the argument from / 
conquest as the most effective solvent of scruples. But -^ 
nothing could mollify the Lower House. On January 25 
the Pastoral Letter was burnt by the common hangman. ^ 

As was natural, it seems to have been instantly reprinted. # 
Burnet's complaints of the usage he had received were 

♦ 3i8 He is disliked by both sides [ch. viii 

rmean while loud and public ; and he promptly reissued, with 

/ a new defensive Preface^ the Enquiry into the Measures of 

L^ubmission. In his nnal History, as Macaulay has remarked, 

/ Burnet glides over this incident as one too inconsiderable 

V^for mention. In his original Memoirs, however, he gives 

\ full rein to his vexation ; with the surprising comment " it 

i** looked somewhat extraordinary that I, who perhaps was 

j " the greatest assertor of public Xiherty from my first setting 

\ " out, of any writer in the age, should be so severely treated 

"as an enemy to it." But (so moralizes Burnet) **the 

"truth was the Tories never liked me; and the Whigs 

"hated me because I went not into their notions and 

"passions." — "I find," he appends elsewhere, "the high sort 

"of Churchmen cannot be gained till the toleration is broke 

"and a persecution of dissenters is set on foot... and yet by 

"the pains I take to gain upon that party I have fallen 

" under the displeasure of the other party ; so hard a thing it 

" is *' (he adds, in language curiously reminiscent of Halifax 

himself) " in such divided times to resolve to be of no 

" parties ; for a man of that temper is protected by none and 

"pushed at by... many.... But even this" (he magnanimously 

concludes) " and worse things that may happen to me 

"shall not, I hope, be able to make me depart from 

" moderate principles, and the just asserting the liberty of 

" mankind." 

The King, like Burnet, still clung to a " Trimming " 
policy and the elevation of the distinguished Whig lawyer, 
Somers, to the Keepership of the Great Seal (which took 
place at the end of the Session) was really intended as a 
counterpoise. Burnet rejoiced; since he entertained for 
Somers an admiring regard which seems to have been in 
some sort reciprocated. For it is said that while Somers 
held the Seal, the Chancellor's patronage in the diocese of 
Salisbury was always at Burnet's disposal. 

During the summer of 1693 took place a Scotch Session 
under the management of Secretary Johnston. His instruc- 
tions delighted Burnet. At the instance apparently of M.^y 
^ he received orders for a secret enquiry into the rumoured 
massacre of Glencoe ; and he was desired to obtain an Act, 
allowing such Episcopal clergy as would conform to retain 
their cures, without a specific abjuration of episcopacy. 


*693-4] The JVhigs in power 319 # 

This scheme, however, though earnestly seconded by 
Tillotson, and furthered by Johnston with great dexterity 
and the straining of his family credit in Presbyterian circles, 
was doomed to failure. The Episcopalians, who were in 
general Jacobite, refused to come in. Johnston nonetheless 
was displeased by the coldness with which William repaid 
his efforts ; and his irritated mortification is clearly mirrored 
in Burnet's entry of September 9 following. 

Abroad, the season was darkened by naval and military 
disaster, and Burnet's spirits sank. "It is not safe," heN 
wrote early in September, 1693, **to argue from our notions \ 
" to what may be expected from the providence of God,. ^ 
'* which is ah unsearchable abyss ; yet I am often forced to\ 
" think, that unless God is making use of England to carry \ 
"on some other great design... we must be cast into some \ 
*' dismal calamities, which as a furnace may purify us and ; 
"melt us down.... Arise then, O God... and establish the / 
'* work of thy hands among us." 

William meanwhile sought more mundane assistance. 
Suddenly, and in preparation for the winter session, he 
abandoned the system of coalition ministries, emphasised 
so recently as the preceding spring. In order to fix 
responsibility in a definite quarter he now resolved to 
choose a party and work through it, and his choice 
eventually fell on the Whig interest, which at that time 
had the preponderance in the Commons. His mentor, 
as all knew, was the astute and cynical Sunderland, the 
doubly apostate minister of James II, who had recently 
crept back into business. " His behaviour in former reigns," 
wrote Burnet, eighteen months later, "made people conclude 
" that he could not be firm himself to principles of public 
*• liberty ; and therefore, though they were glad that, at any 
"rate, the King was brought about, yet a deep jealousy still 
"remained of the King's own inclinations." As for the 
Whigs " they" (says Burnet) " grew to be very hearty for 
'^ the King when they saw he intended to put himself in 
'•their hands;... for men grow... patriots or courtiers as they 
" happen to be well or ill used." 

The Session of 1 693-4 was as usual agitated ; but under 
a more consistent ministenal guidance Parliament at length 
responded, with moderate alacrity, to the Governmental 


0320 Burnet on Divorce and Remarriage [ch.viu 

spur. The war taxes amounted to several millions; and 
ordinary expedients being soon exhausted, the balance was 
raised, on fairly favourable terms ; upon the understanding 
that the shareholders should be incorporated into a Bank 
of England. Burnet's observations on this head hardly 
suggest the supposed initiator of a great financial revolution\ 
** This matter," he says, "was so strongly argued on both 
'* sides, that I confess I understand it not enough to form 
'*a sure judgment upon it. I do rather think the bank will 
" be an advantage to the nation as it is certainly a great 
"one to the King, since they furnish... money on...eas[y] 
" terms." 

The attention of the House of Lords, meanwhile, was 

argely engrossed by a singularly nauseous divorce suit. 

frhe criminality of the Duchess of Norfolk lay beyond 

|doubt; but party passion, and the gross provocation she 

;had received from her husband, divided public sympathy. 

jThe question however really at issue was whether the 

I Duke should obtain leave for remarriage. The abortive 

'' Canons prepared by the English Reformers, would have 

/ sanctioned remarriage, in the case of the injured party. 

/ Actually, however, express Parliamentary authority was 

j required for each remarriage ; and only two Acts of this 

) nature had been passed since the Reformation. The point 

[ seems to have been now referred to the Episcopal bench. 

■ AH the post-revolution Bishops (including of course Burnet, 

I whose views we already know') voted for the permission; 

I all the Caroline and Jacobean Bishops against it. The 

I comments of the " rigid " churchmen — whether Jurors or 

Nonjurors— may be imagined. 

A fresh episode gave them another handle against 
Burnet. Towards the close of 1693 ^^e Bishop had 
» prepared for publication four of the Discourses which had 
been delivered, as preludes to discussion, at Diocesan 
Visitations. The Preface is dated December 8, and the 
book, which was licensed January 22 following, demands 
some attention. For it defines Burnet's attitude on some 
important points and excited a storm of obloquy, political 
and religious. 

In the Preface, Burnet explains his scope. The work 

* Sec suproy p. 317. * See supra, p. 24$. 

1693-4] The Four Discourses 32 1 • 

is to assist controversialists against opponents of four 

In the first he includes ** atheists and libertines*'^, 
(freethinkers) whose doctrines '* dissolve all the bounds \sic\ 
** of nature and society." 

The second division contains the Socinians, who are in 
general men of strict morals, just and charitable. But by 
denying the reality of spiritual intercommunication with the 
Divine, they deprive religion of its emotional incentives. 
Their repudiation of God s foreknowledge leaves optimism 
without support ; as their notions of a future state lessen 
salutary hopes and fears. Even on these points, therefore, 
their opinions bear directly '' upon practice." But when we 
come to the fundamentals of Christianity — the doctrines of 
Incarnation and Atonement — their view, and the received 
opinion, are so diametrically at variance, as to constitute a 
bar against intercommunion. 

Third come the Roman Catholics; these must be 
encountered on their own crucial topic, Infallibility. 

And in the fourth place Burnet proposes to treat of the 
Protestant Nonconformists, whose arguments gain no 
intrinsic value from the civil sanctions of the Toleration 

An exordium so undeniably appropriate proves, however, 
but the herald of a political digression. With impassione3^ 
pathos Burnet implores his clergy, as they value Liberty • 
and Religion, to support the reigning Sovereigns against , \ 
Popery, Tyranny and France. He proceeds to justify the 
Revolution ; and unluckily for him relies more especially on 
two precedents — the Maccabean revolt and the contest 
between Constantius and Licinius — which had been 
vigorously controverted in his own early Vindication. 

The first Discourse is on the " Truth of the Christian 
** religion." Its topics are drawn, in the first place, from 
an asserted agreement between the Christian Religion, the 
facts of psychology, and the moral instinct. We feel 
within us a principle '* that both thinks and acts freely and 
'* totally different from matter which neither thinks nor 
** chooses. This principle... feels that its thoughts do direct 
" its freedom, in all that it does'' (how unexpectedly Kantian 
a touch!) **and therefore is capable of good or evil, of 


322 Inspiration^ Mysteries, Atonement [ch. viu 

** rewards and punishments." With these principles, as 
with natural morality, Christianity is in perfect harmony. 
Burnet then treats of the historical argument ; cites the 
testimony of the Messianic Scriptures, of Tosephus, and 
of the evangelical writers. As to the Gospels, he ridicules 
the hypothesis of elaborate forgery; forgery undertaken, 
as he points out, in the interests of purity and sincerity. 
Verbal inspiration he rejects, save perhaps in the case of 
Moses ; and specifically allows degrees of inspiration. 
"Those holy penmen writ in such a diversity, that it is 
"apparent every one was left to his own... genius as to 
'* style...." 

The second Discourse concerns the nativity and death 
of Christ. Burnet contests the Socinian position " that 
" everything of which we can form no distinct idea is nothing 
" to us." We cannot indeed forgo the agency of our senses, 
or receive that which contradicts them ; but we accept much 
which we can neither prove nor realise. The blind believe 
in sight ; we all appreciate the result of mathematical pro- 
cesses, of which the steps transcend our faculties. The 
difficulties inherent in any scheme of natural religion — such 
as those which relate to the necessary being of God — are 
as fundamental as anything in the mysteries of Christianity. 
On the Incarnation his views are those embodied in the 
letters to Van Limborch ; and he taxes the Socinians with 
professing reverence for writers who, on their own hypo* 
thesis, deserve little respect. For St John, from the 
Socinian standpoint, appears "a most incongruous writer; 
"[who] could... say of Christ Jesus 'This is the true God 
" ' and Eternal Life ' ; and in the very next words add, 
" * Little Children, keep yourselves from idols.' " 

As to the dogma of the Atonement Burnet deprecates 
" Subtleties in ^hich the Scripture is absolutely silent " ; the 
" contexture of legal metaphysics " which so inappropriately 
weighs "infinities one against another." The essential 
suffering of Christ consisted (he maintains) in vicarious 
mental torment ; which constituted not only an Ulustraiion 
of the horrors of sin, and the love and goodness of God, 
but a ** propitiatory and expiatory sacrifice." This was 
offered " both upon our account and in our stead " ; and in 
consequence, God proffers the world pardon and blessing. 

'693-4] The motive of Confonnity 323 

Thus far Burnet follows the usual track of Protestant 
theology. But in developing his thesis he becomes far 
from clear. It is impossible to grasp how he interprets 
expiation. He seems repelled in opposite directions by 
dislike of the Roman theory which ascribes merit to 
human acts ; and by a contrary revulsion from the doctrine 
of imputed righteousness. That dogma he regards as 
revolting to the moral sense and as tending to Antinomian- 
ism. The Pauline " works of the law " are for him the 
ritual precepts of the Mosaic economy ; and he defines the 
Pauline faith as ''the complex of all the duties of Christianity 
outward as well as inward. His attitude, therefore, is not 
very self-consistent ; and since we have frequently compared 
Burnet to Bishop Wilberforce, we may contrast Burnet's 
ambiguous logic with Wilberforce's admirably cogent 
reconciliation of the Pauline and Jacobean standpoints. 

The third Discourse (on Infallibility) but repeats his 
earlier arguments against Rome ; and we need only notice 
that it contains an eulogy of Chillingworth. 

The fourth Discourse (on the obligation of Church 
communion) is historically important, as defining Burnet's 
attitude towards the nonconforming sects. '*A lazy 
" compliance with everything that is uppermost " must, he 
declares, end by enervating, not only intellectual energy, 
but religious sincerity and zeal, and make way for eccles- 
iastical tyranny. Yet, **a wanton cavilling at everything, 
** the breaking of an established order" detract equally from 
the great ends of religion. More especially they derogate 
from that charity which is '' a main part of the glory as well 
"as of the duties of our religion "; and which obliges us to 
meet in common worship, for the strengthening of love and 
union. He maintains that a man is not morally free to 
choose his religious body ; for unless the terms of communion 
seem unlawful the abandonment of the national church 
becomes a sin ; and a '* bare aversion or dislike " (un- 
grounded on reason or Scripture) cannot rank as a 
conscientious scruple. 

The general objections of the dissenters to the 
imposition of non-scriptural rites he expounds and answers 
much after the manner of Hooker. In especial he 
deprecates, as the most fruitful source of superstition, a 

21 — a 

324 Liturgy and Discipline [ 

belief in the necessary immutability of rites whether simple 
or ornate. Even a ritual excessively elaborate, if shorn of 
criminal details, cannot, he argues, justify separation. He 
defends the cross in baptism, and kneeling at the Communion, 
as edifying, though non-essential forms ; describes the three 
Ministerial Orders as Apostolic; and is strong on the 
subject of a liturgy. The language of any minister, so he 
argues, constitutes a form, '* to which all the rest of the 
''assembly is limited; the question then lies... between the 
''sudden conceptions of one man, who is often young, rash, 
" without judgment... and a form well digested. a body 
"of wise and good men.*' The Anglican liturgy (so he 
argues) may be safely preferred to any that has existed, or 
is likely to exist. 

The charge of laxity in admission to the Eucharist is 
met by the response, that confirmation provides, or should 
provide, a test of preliminary fitness. The objection to the 
surplice (" now esteemed." he says, " the least considerable 
" of all ") evokes the unanswerable argument, that a white 
garment of one particular fashion cannot be more inherently 
sinful than a black one of another. He argues strongly for 
" anniversary '* holy days, and an annual round of devotion; 
though an " over valuing of these things " is clearly super- 
stitious. As regards Lent he deprecates a '* nice distinction 
"of meats." The Church only recommends prayer and 
abstinence in general ; a fish diet (then and till the middle 
of last century prescribed by statute) is of legal, not 
spiritual obligation. To Anabaptist objections he returns 
the usual responses ; and pleads that a belief in the 
salvation of baptised innocents agrees with our ideas of 
"the infinite goodness of God." To the Quakers he 
suggests, that the principle of the Inward Light, uncorrected 
by any other, must lead to Antinomianism ; that Baptism, 
the Eucharist, and the Ministry were instituted by Christ 
himself ; that the Apostles discouraged the public ministra- 
tions of women ; and that, while we must never in essential 
matters "be conformed to the world," trivial external 
shibboleths contravene the example of Christ and derogate 
from the dignity of religion. Judicial oaths, he adds, appear 
in both Testaments ; and whatever the origin of tithes, once 
land has been bought so charged, to refuse payment becomes 

¥r^ 1 

1693-4] Burnet charged with Socinianism 325 

sheer dishonesty. The Quakers object to war; but do they 
(he enquires) decline war taxation ? 

In fine, however, Burnet hints to the churchman, on the 
general issue, that concession, even where not necessary, is 
often expedient. He urges candour, Christian charity, and 
an emulation in virtue, as the best means of subduing 

These Discourses gave great satisfaction in certain 
august quarters. After perusing (as we gather) the MSr\ 
both Tillotson and the Queen urged Burnet to undertake 1 ^ 
a yet '* greater work"; a commentary, namely, on the \ ■ 
Thirty-nine Articles. Upon this task Burnet seems to 
have entered by the beginning of the year 1694. 

On the other hand to the extreme churchmen the 
Discourses, as we have already hinted, afforded a welcome 
pretext for attack. " A man/' writes Burnet cruelly, but 
not altogether unfairly, ** that will magnify the authority of 
"the clergy and... the rights of the Church. ..and that 
'* declaims bitterly against dissenters, how weakly... and how 
"falsely soever. ..will pass for a true Churchman... among 
** corrupt Clergymen." And though, on the other hand, 
they dare not openly assault a reformer (** for they know 
**that the world will be against them") they **will wait for 
" some doctrinal point that they may more safely charge him 
'*with heresy." The specific accusation, in this instance, 
became that of Socinianism. 

The charge seems to have been commonly urged against 
the Tillotsonian school, and against Tillotson more 
especially — and most unfairly. In Burnet's case it had 
been originally suggested by the critical remarks (contained 
in his Travels) on the text "of the Three Witnesses." 
Moreover, about 1691, during a long controversy with 
the minister Jurieu, Bossuet had striven to show that the 
drift of Protestantism (whereof he described Jurieu, 
Basnafi;e and Burnet as the three principal champions) was 
towards Unitarianism. Burnet he had more particularly 
charged with having argued (in his answer to Bossuet s 
Variations) that the doctrine of the Trinity had been 
gradually elaborated ; and with including the Socinians in 
a project of universal intercommunion. How unfounded 
was the last charge may be gathered, not only from the 

326 Concerning the Socinians [ch. viii 

already quoted Discourses and the earlier correspondence 
with Van Limborch, but from another interesting Latin 
letter to Van Limborch, dated November 18, 1694. This 
apparently alludes to a recent work by Mr Firmin, the 
Unitarian, Tillotsons philanthropic ally; whom Tillotson 
had himself referred for confutation to Burnet, as to a 
champion of orthodoxy on this topic. *'The Socinian 
** controversy," writes Burnet, *'is especially acute; and 
**our Socinians have now exchanged that truly Christian 
" modesty of style, which was the honour of their sect, 
**for scurrility and fury." He believes the dispute to 
be fomented by the Deists, who, that they may discredit 
the Scriptures, encourage the Socinians to ridicule the 
Orthodox view, of which they themselves maintain the 
Scriptural validity. '* Others there are," he adds, referring 
to the extreme churchmen, **who charge the mildness 
"of some among the Bishops with the discredit of these 
'^ discussions ; and trust they may find therein an opportunity 
** of reversing the General Toleration, under which we live 
** in harmony and happiness." The Orthodox, he admits, 
are' not always judicious in their arguments ; but Bull's 
[recent slip ? in the Judicium EccUsub Catholica ?] is due to 
the ardour of debate. Burnet warns Van Limborch how- 
ever *'that the leniency shown to the Socinians by the 

* Remonstrants, who communicate with them, and minimize 

* the difference between them, makes the worst impression 

* here. For though civil Toleration should not be restricted 

* by any dogmatic bounds. Ecclesiastical Toleration has its 

* limits. For if I believe, that communion with idolaters is 

* to be avoided ; that idolaters should be repudiated ; if 

* I believe (as we acknowledge) that the worship which 
'Socinians pay to Jesus Christ, is on their own hypotheses, 
' idolatrous ; it follows they must be excluded from 
'communion. Moreover, among us, the Socinians al- 

* together repudiate the worship of Christ ; and merely 
'invoke Him; but even this they describe as a matter 
*of indifference (adiaphora)." 

This passage even if it stood alone would stamp Burnet 
as no Socinian. Whether he did or did not steer with 
perfect success between the Scylla of Sabellianism and the 
Charybdis of Tritheism, may be left to theoretic theo- 

1694] The Polemics of Leslie 327 

logians; but it is not permissible to doubt his faith in 
the Divinity of Christ. 

The ^charge of SocinianisHLjeaLg^nfine ,th? Jgss endorse^ 
by the celebratedTacobite controversialist Charles Leslie, to 
whoSe acrimonious pen we may probaDiy ascribe an 
anonymous diatribe against Burnet, published four years 
earlier under the title of The St ate Proteus . Well read m 
Gallican theology, he may perhaps have met with Bossuet's 
strictures on Burnet ; and his ire was now fanned into flame 
by Burnet's anti-Jacobite preface. His retort to the Dis-y^ 
courses bears the cumbrously sarcastic title : Tempora j 
Mutantur, or the great change from 7^ to <)^. In the I 
travels of a Professor of Theology at Glasgow from t/ie 
Primitive and Episcopal Loyalty, through Italy y Geneva^ 
etc. to the deposing doctrine under Papistico-Phanatico- 
Prelatico colours at Salisbury [etc. etc."]. 

The scheme of this tract (as of most Jacobite on-*^ 
slaughts upon Burnet) is admirably simple and exquisitely 
calculated to annoy. It consists in juxtaposing (without 
their context) quotations of a directly opposite tendency 
from his earlier and later works. Burnet's exasperation 
is revealed in his autobiography ; where he resentfully 
remarks that the discontented clergy '* found a rude pre- 
" tender to learning who fell on me in a very petulant style, 
" but so poorly in point of armiment that he seemed to have 
** no other design in writing but to rail at me. I would not 
" answer him ; two others did very fully." 

During the summer which ensued Burnet's correspon- 
dence with Tillotson appears unusually active. To Tillotson 
Burnet applied on a matter which excited his abiding 
resentment. On the death of Sancroft (which occurred in 
1693) it had been discovered that his chaplain, by his 
directions, had withdrawn from the Registry of Canterbury 
the instrument under which Burnet had been consecrated. 
The failure to return it was presumably due — as was urged 
by Sancroft's friends — to mere inadvertence. But under 
the circumstances of the case it is not surprising that 
Burnet, who was put to some trouble and threatened with 
great expense in recovering the deed, should have regarded 
its abstraction as a deliberate attempt to jeopardise his own 
title to Episcopal orders. 

328 Tillot son's Funeral Sertnan [ch.viii 

Both Burnet and Tillotson, again, were keenly interested 
in an episcopal meeting at Lambeth ; convened by Tillotson 
with a view to the correction of abuses, more especially that 
of non-residence. The issue of purely episcopal instructions 
on the point seems to have been mooted. Burnet however 
doubted the legal validity of such a step ; and his doubts 
derive support from the previously expressed opinion of 
Bishop Fell. Burnet himself suggested a Royal Mandate, 
requiring the Archbishop to transmit such instructions to his 
suflrrag;ans. Tillotson eventually acquiesced ; and Burnet 
draughted the suggested Mandate, for Tillotson's correction. 
It was also proposed to reissue certain Ordination Rules, 
drawn up by Bancroft, but suppressed, in that case also, 
by the advice of Fell. 

Burnet, meanwhile, was proceeding rapidly on the com- 
position of his great work on the Articles. Assisted 
by materials collected for his theological lectures at Glasgow 
and for that work on religious truth which has so un- 
accountably disappeared, he finished it, as he tells us, 
** within a year after I undertook it." He submitted the MS. 
to the Archbishop who '*read it all over and corrected it 
"in many places" ; and on October 23 wrote to Burnet the 
well-known letter of approval which contains an oft-quoted 
sentence. ** The account given of Athanasius's creed" 
(observes Tillotson) "seems to me no wise satisfactory; 
** I wish we were well rid of it." The letter concluded with 
a prayer that Burnet might long be spared to do such 
service to the Church. 

Little can the gentle writer have guessed, as he penned 
the devout aspiration, how nearly his own day drew to its 
term. Within the month, an apoplectic seizure surprised 
him in Whitehall Chapel while conducting divine service. 
Five days later he peacefully expired. 

To Burnet the blow was as terrible as it was unexpected ; 
for Tillotson had held the primacy little over three years. 
Upon Burnet fell the task of preaching the funeral sermon; 
and Oldmixon, who was present, tells us that the preacher's 
voice was at one moment choked by his tears. 

The sermon, as we shall see, gave great umbrage to the 
Jacobites. The eulogy of one "renegade" by another 
naturally excited their spleen; and they justly resented 




1694] Burnefs Devotion for the Queeft 329 * 

an uncalled for attack on Sancroft which evinces personal 
animus. Moreover the discourse lies open to wider 
criticism. A fine preacher — a cautious administrative re- 
former—mild in his manners— bland and pedestrian in his 
piety, and weighty by dint of *' sanctified common sense " — 
Tillotson's virtues were not of the militant order. Few 
could less successfully sustain comparison with the 
restless energy, the meteoric ardour of the Apostle Paul ; 
and Burnet by suggesting the parallel but exposed his 
friend to the savage ridicule of his foes. . 

As successor to the vacant see, the Queen urged the \ 
appointment of Stillingfleet, by far the ablest and most J 
resolute administrator then on the Episcopal bench. In 
this proposition Burnet seems to have concurred. Party\ 
spirit however prevailed, and Tenison, a dull but con- ) 
scientious clergyman, who held strong Whig opinions, was ' 
preferred to the Primacy. 

He was a personal friend of Burnet's who regarded him 
with much respect. But it is clear that, Tillotson gone, 
Burnet's hopes for ecclesiiastical reform and religious 
revival j:entred^ fiutirely round the Queen. She had in- 
variably acted as Regent, during her husband's absences 
abroad r whiltr for nearly five years the administration of 
ecclesiastical affairs had been left wholly to her discretion. \ 
(That Burnet was admitted to her innermost confidence » 
we shall not aver; for no one — not even the husband she \ 
so passionately loved — had access to the arcana of a nature J 
as strong as it was gentle. But into the outer courts of 
the citadel Burnet, as even her husband confessed, had 
penetrated as far as most. Increased knowledge had 
but intensified the respect first evinced, eight years 
earlier, in the letter to Fall. ** I never," writes Burnet 
in 1695, ** admired any person so entirely as I did 
**her. In the course of above eight years very particular 
** knowledge of her, I never saw any one thing that I could 
** have wished... other wise." He praises, with equal fervour, 
"her understanding, her piety and her virtue.... The purity 
** and sublimity of her mind was the perfectest thing I ever 
"saw.... And as I thank God that I do still feel the sense of 
**the Christian religion, and... the reformation of it from 
•* popery to be that which lies nearer my heart than all the 

330 The death of Mary [ch. vin 

^'things of this world... so I cannot without a very particular 
** joy see that person... [who is marked] out to be both the 
"defender and perfecter of that blessed work. ..such in all 
"the parts both of her private deportment and •• .public 
''administration...that she seems to.. .have been born" 
to that end. ** I am sensible," he adds, **that I perhaps 
"return too oft to this.. ..It is almost the only thing that 
"supports my thoughts against the melancholy... which all 
" other views of our affairs gives." 

At the time of Tillotson's death she was still but 32 
years old, and a long continuance of her rule might be 
reasonably anticipated. Just a month later however, feverish 
symptoms developed. On the following day. December 
19, Burnet had an audience of half-an-hour. Discussing 
the proposed injunctions to the clergy she evinced no great 
hopes of success, but announced, none the less, her firm 
resolution to proceed ; she also touched on her darling 
scheme of transforming Greenwich Palace into a Hospital 
for sea-veterans. Twenty-four hours later her state oc- 
casioned anxiety ; by December 22 the illness was pro- 
nounced 3mall-pox, of a malignant type. 

In William, admiring affection for a once neglected wife 
had been steadily increasing, ever since her conduct at 
the Revolution had revealed to him what she was ; and 
the news of her danger overwhelmed him with horror and 
remorse. Before Burnet, who on the 23rd was specially 
summoned to his closet, he completely broke down. " He 
" cried out very violently ; he told me he had no hope ; and 
"that from being the happiest he was going to be the 
"miserablest creature on earth.... There was a worth in her 
"that none knew besides himself; though he said" (adds 
Burnet) " I knew her as much as any other person did." 
These agonizing fears were soon and terribly justified ; 
for fatal symptoms almost immediately appeared. 

The Queen faced death with unaffected calm ; her life 
had been a hard one, and she had no desire to live. 
"The day before she died." writes Burnet, "she received 
" the sacrament ; all the bishops that were attending 
"being admitted to receive it with her. We were, God 
" knows, a sorrowful company ; for we were losing her who 
" was our chief hope and glory on earth." Delirium super- 

1694] The Essay on the Late Queen 331 

vened ; and on December 28, about an hour after midnight, 
she passed quietly away. 

"I never/* wrote Burnet, three months later, "felt myself 
''sink so much under anything that had happened to me... 
" it is a daily load upon my thoughts, and gives me great 
"apprehensions of very heavy judgments hanging over us." 
For it seemed, to his fears, that she was taken from the evil 
to come. 

To Mary's memory he dedicated, early in 1695, ^^ ^"^^ 
rhapsody which he calls An Essay on the Late Queen, In 
luxuriance of appreciation it may seem perhaps to violate 
the sane and reticent instincts of the Stuart who was \ 
Clarendons grandchild. Yet if less a portrait than an 
apotheosis, its. extravagance, so to speak, is rather in hue 
than in outline ; the likeness is true and consists with other 
representations. And the almost lyrical fervour of the whole 
tells the passion of regret that underlies ; it is, as Mary's 
Dutch biographer has well expressed it, a true " cry from 
'•the heart." 


REIGN OF WILLIAM III. 1695— 1702. 

Somewhat to the general astonishment, the death of 
Mary proved a blow to her husband under which it was 
feared he might succumb. Overwhelmed by grief and 
penitence, he sought the consolations of that religion, which 
had been his wife's stay ; and strove, in every quarter, 
to demonstrate his respect for her memory. The Mistress, 
whose ascendancy had long embittered their relations, 
received her dismissal. The Greenwich scheme was 
energetically forwarded ; and the King resolved there 
should be no breach in the continuity of ecclesiastical 
policy. The injunctions to the clergy, which had occupied 
Mary to the last, were issued on February 1 5 ; and on April 6 
the King, says Burnet, ** granted a commission to the two 
** Archbishops\ the Bishops of Lichfield', Worcester*, Ely*, 
**and myself, to recommend fit persons to all ecclesiastical 
** preferments; and did charge us to seek out the... worthiest 
'* men.... This" he adds (writing within the month) '*has 
*'a very good appearance; and if it... is well managed by us 
** it may have happy effects ; though I confess my hopes are 
''so sunk with the Queen's death, that I do not flatter 
" myself with further expectations. If things can be kept 
**in tolerable order, so that we may have peace... in our 
'*days, I dare look for no more." 

The responsibilities of the Commissioners were heavy. 
On the vacancy of all Crown patronage (the Bishoprics 
included) which was above a certain small value they were 
charged to recommend one or more suitable nominees. 
During the King's absences abroad they even presented to 
all Crown preferment under the yearly value of ;^i40. 

* Tenison and Sharp. • Lloyd. 

3 Stillingfleet. ♦ Patrick. 

1695] Deaths 0/ Hamilton and Halifax 333) 

This ** Ecclesiastical Commission " was of course un- 
popular. The very title had invidious associations. The 
concentration of patronage in the hands of a small group 
excited jealousy; and respectable as was the composition of 
the board, its members in the main represented a single 
school of thought. 

Beyond the ecclesiastical sphere meanwhile, Burnet's j 
importance was greatly diminished. The free access he I 
had enjoyed under Mary now ceased ; and in a speech 1 
of ten years later, he clearly restricts his first-hand 1 
knowledge of foreign affairs to the lifetime of the late/ 
Queen. ^" 

In the spring of 1695 ^^^^ ^wo of Burnet s early friends; 
the Duke of Hamilton and Lord Halifax. He had _ceased 
to respect either; while it is said that Halifax declined 
BiirfieTs last iininistrations ; lest the Divine (using him, as 
heliad" us ed Rochester, to *' point " a pious ** moral ") should : 
"triumph over him after his death.'* To other ears, however, ! 
HaTirax avowed sentiments of religion which surprised the 
world and edified his former friend. Two years later 
(writing to the chaplain at Lisbon, who had charged our 
envoy with impiety), Burnet suggestively hints : " I have 
** known some who have delighted mightily. the venting 
**of paradoxes, and... for that reason passed [asj atheists, 
'*who yet I am sure were not so, as it appeared at their 

The year 1695 ^^ ^^^ Burnet replete with controversy. 
On February 2 he dated from Westminster an elaborate 
retort to Unitarian attacks on his own Four Discourses^. 
It is remarkable for its indignant rejection of the previously 
discussed charge, that the ** orthodox" Latitudinarians 
of the day were concealed Socinians ; and that they 
acquiesced in Trinitarian formulas for the sake of lucre or 
reputation. " If I did not," he says, ** sincerely believe [the] 
"doctrine [of the Incarnation] I should think it a horrid 
"prevaricating with God and man, to make confessions 
"which I do not believe, and to join in acts of worship 
"which I think idolatrous." Silence in such cases implies, 
he says, consent, "and he must live and die in a state 

I In the form of a letter to Dr Williams with whose Vindication of Stilling- 
fleet and Tiliotson it was subsequently printed. 


334 Trinitarian Controversy [ch. ix 

"of damnation," who, on such crucial points, suggests, even 
tacitly, belief in doctrines he repudiates. ** The blackest 
"part of the charge of idolatry which we lay on the Church 
** of Rome is a mild thing " compared to the guilt of those 
who can ** worship One as the Great God " whom at heart 
they deem *'a mere creature." 

In the same letter Burnet animadverts severely on the 
crude (if convenient) '* Higher Criticism" of the Socinians ; 
who, while professing reverence for the Scriptures in 
general, assumed the interpolation of all passages in- 
compatible with their own thesis. 

To the charge of discrepancy among Trinitarian 
apologists Burnet responds by distinguishing between 
" that which is a part of our religion, and those conceptions 
*' by which we may more distinctly set it forth." All who 
acknowledge a Providence, and a Trinity-in- Unity, and all 
who worthily receive the sacrament are of one religion 
on these points ; though they differ as to the doctrines 
of Predestination, Hypostatic Union, or Consubstantiation. 
His definition of true textual criticism is excellent ; and the 
little treatise, though written at a distance from his books, is 
one of the ablest among his controversial efforts. 

On April 1 2 following, again, Burnet dated an anony- 
mous reply to an attack from the contrary direction. A 
Mr Hill (of the diocese of Bath and Wells) who had been 
present at the original delivery of the second among the 
published Discourses, had undertaken to "Vindicate" 
the ''Primitive Fathers" from the "Imputations" of the 
Bishop. Burnet's patristic lore was perhaps a little rusty ; 
and Mr Hill, deeply read in primitive theology, seems to 
have caught the prelate more than once tripping. His 
tract, however, if sometimes eloquent, is needlessly offensive 
in style ; and the licenser (a Professor of Hebrew at Oxford) 
had had to offer Burnet a formal apology for his laxity in 
authorizing its publication. Burnet's anonymous retort to 
Mr Hill makes great parade of authorities ; and charges 
Hill — a warm apologist of tradition — with conceding to 
Rome all her advocates demand; namely, that the Evan- 
gelical message has no validity quoad nos till endorsed by 
the fiat of the Church. 

The most vigorous onslaught, however, which engaged 

i69S] Burnet attacked by Hickes 335 

Burnet's attention is contained in Some Discourses (on the 
Tillotson funeral sermon), which were published anony- 
mously by Dr Hickes, deprived Dean of Worcester, and 
a bishop-suffragan among the Nonjurors. As a former 
chaplain of Lauderdale, a very ** rigid " churchman, and a 
Jacobite, he had three topics of public quarrel with Burnet; 
and these, as we know, were reinforced by a personal 
grudge. The present was not his first attack upon Burnet ; 
but it was by far the most comprehensive. A rambling 
tract of some 100 pages (about half of which is devoted to 
the disparagement of Tillotson), it contains the quintes- 
sence of all charges against Burnet made up to this date. 
His Latitudinarianism, and his political '* apostasy"; his 
leniency to dissenters and asserted severity to Non-jurors ; 
his youthful denunciation of the Scottish Bishops, and the 
Lauderdale Dedication ; his heat of temper and his mystical 
proclivities ; his Case of Barrenness and his supposed 
Socinianism ; his textual inaccuracy and reputed editorial dis- 
honesties ; not to mention his opportune repudiation ^ of the 
legend, which exalts the ** passive obedience" of a martyred 
** Thebean Legion " ; all these are handled hap-hazard, and 
with amusing vehemence. The bona fides of Hickes is 
obvious, and he does not stoop to the grosser insinuations 
so commonly endorsed by his brethren ; but many hearsay 
chaises have been so distorted in transit, as to eventuate 
in absolute calumny ; while despite Dr Hickes* deserved 
reputation for scholarship the critical animadversions are 
by no means free from error. 

This attack drew from Burnet the retort or Reflections 
so frequently quoted in the present work. This apology, 
which is alternatively entitled The Bishop of Sarunis Vindi- 
cation^ proved, if in parts acrimonious, on the whole much 
more temperate than the diatribe to which it is a reply. The 
counter-charge of Hickes, which was never published, lies 
still in the Bodleian ; and has also been used for the 
purposes of our investigation. 

The public events of this summer are best explained in 
a hitherto unpublished letter from Burnet to the Electress 
Sophia, the earliest in date recovered. About this corre- 

^ In the preface to his translation of the pseudo-Lactantius, De Mortuis 
Persecutarum^ published by him in Holland, 1687. In the Vindication of the 
Church of Scotland^ pp. 58-9, the story of this "martyrdom" had been endorsed 
with special gusto. 

336 Burnet and the Princess Sophia [ch. ix 

spondence there hangs a certain mystery. We are aware 
that Burnet had early fixed his hopes on the succession of 
the Hanoverian duchess; and that in 1689 William 
(anxious to propitiate the Guelph interest on the continent) 
had employed him to move an amendment to the Bill of 
Rights, definitely settling the final reversion of the Crown 
on the House of Hanover. This had been defeated ; by 
the efforts, as both Burnet and the Court of Hanover 
believed, of the Republican party. A loophole was thus 
left for any one of the fifty or more nearer heirs professing 
the Roman Catholic faith, who should (in the reverse sense 
to Henry IV) weigh the mass against a crown. The Court 
of Hanover, meanwhile, whose interests and ambitions were 
restricted to the limits of the Holy Roman Empire, cared 
little for the prospect of a crown regarded as precarious and 
thorny ; while the Electress herself, impelled by family 
loyalty, desired the rehabilitation of her innocent nephew, 
"The Pretender." William HI was therefore turning his 
eyes in another direction ; and dangling the glittering bait 
before the Papist House of Savoy, an important limb of 
the coalition. Of all this, Burnet was probably ignorant ; 
and his own hopes remained immutably fixed on the Hano- 
verian House. That a regular correspondence had been 
initiated by his report of the proposition of 1689, with the 
Princess Sophia s polite evasive reply, seems very probable ; 
but of the fifty letters which the Bishop is said to have 
received from her, only two were printed by his son. The 
first of Burnet's own epistles yet extant is the one we now 
give, dating from the period when the death of Mary left 
but three lives, none very good, in the line of the recognised 
succession ; but it certainly appears to presuppose much 
previous communication. It is dated September 26, 1695, 
is much damaged \ and begins as follows : 

** May it please your Electoral Highness, 

** When there is no occasion of laying any thing 
** before your EQectoralJ H[ighness] I think it is the truest 
** expression of respect, not to presume upon your goodness, 
*'nor to trouble you to no purpose. This summer ends 
*'very differently from any that we have seen during the 
**war. The French have lost two of the best places they 

^ The words in brackets are conjecturally restored. 

1 695] He writes to her concerning the IVar 337 

** had\ and our King by taking Namur, and in all the steps 
" of that matter, has shewed that nothing can stand before 
*' him and his army ; and though our fleets have not done 
** that which was perhaps expected upon the French coast, 
** yet by th[e] perpetual alarms they were kept in we have 
** quite spoil[ed their] trade, and so raised our own that in 
** no t[im]e of peace it was as high as it is now. So that 
"this nation is [less wjeary of [the war] and less uneasy 
*' under it, than it has been any ye[ar since it] began. We 
*' are now in daily expectation of the King s [orders] con- 
" ceming the calling a new Parliament : which by [what] we 
**can judge will be made up of the [m]en of the whole 
*'nati[on who arje the most zealous for his service. And 
'* though all Eur[ope feared th]at this nation could not be 
** easily gover[n]ed in the [King's ab]sence by reason of our 
** irreparable loss of our great [and] blessed Queen ; yet we 
*' [h]ave been managed with such able and w]ise counsels 
**that we [h]ave not had any dis[tjurbances [by reason o]f 
"it. So that the French are disappointe[d] o[f] that 
" wher[on they] depended so much, upon that never enough 
"lamented death. Our Lords Justices, by assuming no 
" title nor rank, except when four of them were together, 
"have avoided all the envy and jealousy which that high 
" trust might have given ; and their having no appointments 
" for it has made that post to be the less desired. So that 
" the method of governing us during the King's absence is 
"now so well begun and fixed that the fear of it is quite 
" over. And yet, after all, the danger we are still in by 
"the King exposing himself upon all occasions gives us 
"such dreadful apprehensions, that we do very earnestly 
" desire a good peace ; though we were never more able to 
"carry on the war than we are at present. If the French 
"do not make reasonable offers for such a peace as shall 
"both settle and secure all Europe, their King may commit 
" the same error (and with the same ill effects) in this age, 
" that Philip the Second committed in the last ; who tor 
" above twenty years might have had peace on what terms 
" he pleased ; but he lost his time, and continued [the] war 
" till he was forced to accept of one on any terms whatso- 
" ever. One reason that makes us wish for peace is, to see 

1 Namur and Casal. 
R. 22 

338 Comprehension in Scotland [ch. ix 

" the dispute about the" (Hanoverian) "Electorate at an end, 
" for the traverses to it will be very probably [not] appeased 
•* till a general peace settles all the concerns of Europe ; 
** and [our] affairs have now such a relation to your Electoral 
** House that [we are] very insensible if we do not enter 
"into all its interests*. 

** [I will] not abuse your Electoral] H[ighness]'s good- 
"ness any longer. I lay myself at [your fee]t with the 
*'profoundest respect and beg that your Electoral] Hfigh- 
" ness] will look on me [as he] that is with an inviolable 
''duty" [etc., etc.]. 

In Scotland, meanwhile, an important session had taken 
place, which had been practically manoeuvred by Secretary 
Johnston. It was he who had warned the King, and 
warned him in vain, of the pitfalls underlying the so-called 
**Darien" scheme. It was, so Burnet declares, his dexterity 
which, in view of the difficulty as to filling the northern 
vacancies, had induced the Presbyterians to acquiesce in 
a government measure ; encouraging loyal Episcopalian 
ministers, if acceptable to their parishioners, to retain their 
benefices, though without a seat in Church Courts. It was 
he whose personal urgency had secured the adhesion of 
above seventy such ministers in the northern counties "where 
"the episcopal clergy were both the most numerous... the 
''most esteemed," and we may add the most needed. If, 
as we suspect, Burnet had some share in these efforts, they 
represent one of the few occasions when his irenical ardour 
told. For at the time of the Union no less than one 
hundred and sixty-five Episcopal Ministers were still 
officiating in their parishes. 

Johnston's services, however, were but ill-requited ; 
for which Burnet gives a sinister reason. Johnston, as we 
know, had actively pursued the Glencoe investigation. A 
Special Commission had reported this summer to the 
Scottish Parliament ; but, through the exertions of the 
Portland junto, which retained the royal support, the 

' Ernest Augustus, in 1692, had obtained the coveted Ninth Electorate. 
Owing to the jealousies ecclesiastical, political and dynastic of the other 
Electoral Houses, his envoy was however refused a seat in the College ; and 
despite English support, the claim was postponed till 1708. 

1695-6] Johnston Cashiered 339 

guilt of Stair was practically condoned ; and Johnston's 
disgrace became then but a question of time. 

The succeeding winter-session in England (which 
followed on a general election) was on the whole pacific. 
Towards its close, however, some friction arose. The 
imprudent munificence of a royal grant to Benthinck, 
Lord Portland, aroused grave discontent ; while a jealousy 
of Dutch commerce and of the Scottish Darien project, 
and the irritation excited by the inadequacy of our 
convoy system, found vent in the proposal to create, by 
Parliamentary authority, a Council of Trade. This Burnet, 
who regarded the scheme as Republican in tendency, 
deprecated quite as strongly as did William III. 

The Darien outcry gave a colour for Johnston's dis- 
missal; and in February 1696, on this flagrantly unjust 
pretext, Johnston was cashiered in favour of Portland's 
nominee. Such at least is Burnet's contemporary version 
of the matter. 

Burnet's indignation may be imagined ; and with bitter 
comments on this ingratitude end the fragments of his 
Memoirs preserved in the British Museum. From this 
time forth, for a period of nearly twelve years, we are 
dependent for Burnet's narrative on his autobiography, and 
the published History, neither of which takes rank as 
quite contemporary evidence. 

All ill-humours, meanwhile, were overwhelmed in the 
flood of patriotic alarm and indignation evoked in February 
1696 by the sudden discovery of a Jacobite assassination 
plot, in which King James seemed to be an accomplice, and 
which was probably designed by Louis XIV as the prelude 
to a French invasion. "This black conspiracy...," wrotq 
Burnet to the Electress on April 7, "has kindled in all 
" men's minds a zeal for the King and a horror of King 
^' James beyond what I am able to express." How strongly 
moved was Burnet himself we shall see later on. 

For to the following winter belongs the notorious episode 
of Fen wick. Implicated in the Franco-Jacobite invasion 
schemes of the preceding springS he had evaded arrest until 
August An intercepted letter having yielded moral proof of 
his guilt, he had proffered a non-judicial confession; wherein 

^ He is not charged with complicity in the assassination branch of the Plot. 

22 — 2 

340 De Causis Sanguinis [ch. ix 

he dexterously shielded his friends, while involving in a 
general charge of Jacobitism several among the leading 
ministers, Whig no less than Tory. However conscious 
as to the truth of these disclosures, William preferred to 
ignore them ; he dismissed the confession as inadequate, 
and left Fenwick to the law. H is friends managed to cor- 
rupt a witness ; and conviction became thus impossible. 

Russell, an incriminated Whig, declined to forgo his 
revenge. At his instance a Bill of Attainder against 
Fenwick was proposed in the Lower House. It was 
thereupon moved, by a violent supporter of this measure, 
that the Lords Spiritual (as professed advocates for mercy) 
should be ignored in the preamble. The opposition 
satirically supported the motion; on the plea that their 
Lordships, as creatures of the Court, were predisposed 
against the prisoner. 

The motion, however, became void of itself, for it was 
contrary to Constitutional Law. Ancient Canons, it is 
true (on motives partly of superstition), condemned the 
concurrence of ecclesiastics in sentence of death ; and under 
Henry H, as a matter of grace, the Spiritual Peers gained 
the right of withdrawing, before the final vote, from all 
capital trials. Till that stage of the proceedings their claim 
to a seat remained intact ; though, as a rule they contrived 
to evade appearance altogether. Attainders, meanwhile^ 
as technically legislative acts, were exempt from the scope 
of the compromise ; and Spiritual Peers, defying sentiment 
and tradition, had voted for some of the worst among the 
Attainders under Henry VI 1 1. On the Attainder of Strafford^ 
however, the Bishops had unanimously withdrawn. 

When the Fenwick Attainder Bill reached the House 
of Lords, a very general sense that capital cases should be 
debated in full session occasioned a **call of the House '* (a 
Lord Chancellor s '* whip "). It was enforced with unusual 
severity ; and addressed to the Peers Spiritual as well as to 
their lay brethren. The Bishops (Burnet included) obeyed 
the summons ; and several of them (Burnet again included) 
took an active part against the prisoner. They plead pres- 
sure from the House as the cause of their intervention ; and 
belief in Fenwick's guilt to justify their animus against him. 

Neither of these excuses suffice. The House had the 

1696-7] Burnet and the Fenwick Trial 341 

power to bring up recalcitrants under custody ; but if they 
elected to brave its displeasure, it could not force them to 
vote. And strong should be the motives which induce 
complicity in Attainders — the *' Lynch Law" of Jurispru- 
dence. Necessity alone can condone them ; and here no 
necessity could be pleaded. The hand of justice had 
fallen, with exemplary severity, on many of Fenwick's 
accomplices ; he was himself inconsiderable ; and he was 
hounded to death, not for the acknowledged crime he had 
undoubtedly projected, but for the offence he had given to 
the passions of a powerful party. For several among those 
concerned in the projected assassination had also, through 
the absence of sufficient evidence, escaped prosecution; 
and no attempt had been made to reach them by means of 
an Attainder. The second reading debates, which turned 
largely on the question of principle, would have afforded 
the chance to make a stand, in defence of the crucial 
principle, that punishment must be divorced from passion. 

In Burnet's case the breach of professional decency 
was peculiarly glaring. His early Memorial to the 
Scottish Bishops had characterized, with great severity, 
Episcopal intervention in causis even remotely sanguinis. 
The History of the English Reformation had stigmatized, 
no less severely, Attainders passed against persons in actual 
custody. Moreover his Memoirs of twelve years earlier 
had reiterated his dislike to episcopal interference in cases 
of a capital nature. The Bishops' '^ unacquaintedness with 
*' the law, and the wrong notion they generally have of civil 
"society, make them very unfit for those consultations.... 
" \They\ are considered as so many sure votes to the Court... 
*' and being generally men of weak minds, they do very 
*^ probably comply with the Kin^s solicitations often against 
'* their own reasons'' A treacherous Jacobite transcriber 
gave subsequent publicity to the passage ; accompanied by 
the vitriolic comments which the Fenwick case suggested. 

We may dismiss the Tory gibe that his lure was the 
hope of translation ; against which he had resolved, and 
which he eventually declined. His patriotic resentments, 
however, may have been spurred by personal vanity. For 
the Government, on this issue, proved weak in debating 
power; and an adroit hint that the Ministry needed his 

342 The question of respite [ch. ix 

services would have appealed to Burnet's foible. Be that 
as it may, he contributed copiously to the debates, which 
were (he says) the hottest he had known ; and some even 
held that his speeches turned the scale against the 
prisoner. We detect in the History a very elaborate 
summary of the arguments employed. Attainders, in 
extraordinary cases, are described as the only resource, if 
judicial torture be disallowed. Appeal to the History of 
the Reformation is parried by a distinction between just 
attainders, and attainders on frivolous pretexts, or those in 
which the accused remains unheard. Against these, we 
must admit, the censures of the Reformation history mainly 

As the Bill passed its successive stages, however, the 
majority in its favour rapidly declined ; and matters were 
complicated by the discreditable tactics of Mordaunt, to be 
famous as the Earl of Peterborough. These brought on 
him deserved reprobation, which Burnet fully endorsed. 
Apprehending however (as did the King) what Mordaunt if 
desperate might do, he undertook, at William's desire, the 
undignified task of intercession. He reminded the House 
of Mordaunt's Revolution services : and by moving his 
committal to the Tower averted worse evils. 

The Bill passed, and Fenwick's fate was sealed. He 
desired the last offices of a nonjuring Bishop; and secured to 
this end the "charitable" advocacy of Burnet. For this kind- 
ness, in a letter of January 20, he returned pathetic thanks* 
Two days later, on some delay in the completion of the 
favour, his wife prayed the Lords to intercede for a week's 
respite. The plea, valid under the circumstances, should 
have weighed with the Spiritual Peers. Yet Tenison and 
Burnet (who probably regarded the respite as the first step 
to a reprieve) incurred general odium by the vigour 6i 
their opposition. Burnet represented acquiescence as a 
sign of weakness ; for threatening letters had menaced the 
King in case of Fenwick's death. The Lords finally voted 
a qualified petition ; which, while urging the desired 
respite from a ** charitable inclination to a condemned man," 
added the proviso, that such respite must be proved 
consistent with the safety of his majesty and the govern- 
ment. It was not easy to evade concurrence in so guarded 

1696-7] Result of Burnefs Action 343 

a prayer ; and Burnet in fact seems to have voted for the 

There was some idea that it would prove unacceptable to 
the King, who, one regrets to realize, was in favour of the 
attainder ; and the ** Lords with white staves," who usually 
bore such addresses, showed considerable agility in slipping 
out of the House. It was thereupon proposed (in malice 
apparently to Burnet) that he should accompany the 
Bishop of London as bearer of the address. Had he 
frankly acquiesced in the decision of the House, explaining 
that nothing save the interest of the public could bias him 
in favour of severity, he would have turned the tables 
on his tormentors. Unhappily, however, he lost his temper; 
** positively refused" the task; '*and said their lordships 
/* might send him to the Tower, but they had no right to 
" send him to Kensington." The House was scandalized ; 
Lord Rochester begged his Peers to take the prelate at 
his word ; and a storm was only averted by an episcopal 
apology, reinforced by the dexterity of a friend. 

So ended what Burnet, with obvious misgiving, calls 
'* that unacceptable affair, in which I had a much larger 
** share than might seem to become a man of my profession." 
It brought him, as even Burnet confesses, "under a great 
** load of censure " ; exasperating the hatred of the Jaco- 
bites, disgusting the Tories, and alienating many among 
the discontented '* Whigs." But it tended to identify 
Burnet more and more with the prejudices and resent- 
ments of Court or Ministerial "Whiggism." 

Meanwhile the termination of hostilities abroad was 
visibly approaching ; for the long duration of strife had 
proved a severe drain on the strength of all the belligerents, 
and the resources of France were for the time almost ex- 
hausted. From the middle of 1696 peace negotiations were 
*' in the air " ; with the spring of 1697 these took form and 
shape. In vain did James II, in two memorials, declaim 
against the recognition of his rival. Burnet is said to have 
draughted a proposed official reply, which was once at least 
recast, but finally abandoned: and the papers only appeared, 
anonymously, at a date some years subsequent. Mean- 
while on September 3, 1697, the hoisting of a flag on 
Westminster Abbey proclaimed to an expectant England 


344 TAe Peace of Ryswick [ch. ix 

that with the Peace of Ryswick had ended the eight years' 

On the second of December following came the Public 
/Thanksgiving for the Peace. B urnet preached b efore the 
King at Whitehall ; and we follow Macaulay in endorsing 
Evdyn's censure of this " flond panegyric ^^ o ii the K jn^ 
[ "The points sd6cted"1bF'eiiR^^a^^ no cloubt just ; and 
perhaps Burnet, who saw mucn to criticise in the terms of 
the Treaty, preferred to descant on a side-issue. But the 
choice of such a theme on such an occasion exemplifies the 
bad taste so characteristic of Burnet, under stress of great 
excitement Equally offensive is the covert comparison of 
King James and the second Justinian. 

The great event, however, had Burnet gained his way, 
would have been more suitably commemorated. In 
honour of the peace, Burnet urged upon William the com- 
pletion of a scheme for which he had long before obtained 
the approbation of Mary, and which he had already pressed 
upon the King in a memorial dated January 1696. ** The 
** tenths and first-fruits," says the memorial, " were first 
**laid on by the popes, on the pretence of supporting the 
*' holy war ; [under] Henry the Eighth, they were given to 
•*the Crown; since that time they have been given away 
"in pensions.... This revenue may be justly called in 
** question, as unlawful and sacrilegious in its nature ; the 
*' applying it to a good use is the best way to justify it." 
The memorial then refers to the ** miserable " state of 
**many livings in this kingdom.'* In some places three of 
them put together do not amount to forty pounds a year ; 
and Burnet opines that *' a poor clergy may be scan- 
"dalous, but must be both ignorant and contemptible. 
*'To this," he adds, *'we owe in a great measure, the 
" atheism and impieties, and the sects and divisions, 
**that are among us." ** It would," he thinks, **be a 
** noble demonstration, both of zeal for the honour of God 
*' and religion, and of affection to the Church of England, 
*' if the King would appropriate this revenue to the raising 
**the livings of England to some just proportion, beginning 
**at corporations, and livings in his Majesty's gift... A 
" corporation upon this might be settled " (as under Eliza- 
beth, James I and his son) "to receive.. .gifts. ..towards the 


1697-8] The Tenths and First Fruits 345 

*' same end ; and all bishops, deans and chapters might 
'* be obliged to " contribute towards it. Nor does Burnet 
doubt but that '' besides a blessing that may be expected 
from God upon so noble a design ... it would be made up 
to the crown by the parliament ; and would also give 
** such an impression of him, as would have a good effect 
" on all his affairs." 

The wisdom of the serpent, obvious in this last insinu- 
ation, is yet more ingenuously displayed in the reiterative 
memorial of 1697 ; which urges that *'this will be a noble 
''beginning of his Majesty's reign in peace, and a suitable 
"return to God, for his great blessings on his Majesty's 
"person* and his affairs.... And since the boroughs are 
''generally the worst served.. .this will probably have a 
"great effect on all his Majesty's affairs, and on the 
''election of succeeding Parliaments^.'* 

Even this pathetically frank attempt to gild the 
financial pill failed to move the existing Ministry. The 
influential, unscrupulous Sunderland had a lien on the fund ; 
and despite the personal support of William, and the warm 
approbation of Princess Anne, the project made no way. 
Four years later, in reliance on the advocacy of Somers, 
Burnet thought himself within distance of success ; when 
the King's death brought the whole once more to a stand. 

The Peace of Ryswick, meanwhile, initiated but a 
troubled truce. The question of the Spanish Succession, 
which for forty years had loomed in the background of all 
continental controversies, appeared daily more imminent. 
William, in the lowering state of the continental horizon, 
wished to retain 30,000 men on the English peace 
establishment. The opposition, jealous of a standing 
army, and anxious to resist war taxation, resented the pro- 
posal. Acrimonious debates therefore occupied the winter 
session of 1697-8 ; and greatly to William's disgust the 
estimates were Anally fixed for a force of but 10,000 men. 
To Burnet, who at the time probably approved this 
decision, William spoke with extraordinary bitterness ; 
declaring himself " weary of governing a nation that was 

^ An obvious reference to his many personal escapes. 
' The Memorial further proposes that the Commission should consist of 
four prelates, and ten great officers of state. 

346 A Bill against Blasphemy [ch. ix 

" so jealous, as to lay itself open to an enemy rather than 
*' trust him; who... had never once deceived those who 
** trusted him." 

The details of the session need not detain us ; but we 
must notice an abortive Bill of Pains and Penalties, 
brought against Duncombe, a wealthy Tory financier, 

{juilty of frauds on the revenue incog^nizable by existing 
aws. As by this bill two-thirds of his gigantic fortune 
would have become available towards remission of 
taxation the danger of the precedent is manifest ; and 
Macaulay regrets the sanction which the attempt obtained 
at the hands of Burnet and the ''excellent... Bishop* of 
•' Oxford." 

Another matter in which Burnet took keen interest was 
a Parliamentary retort on the polemics of the Socinians; 
and of the rather superficial Deism so brilliantly charac- 
terized by Mr Balfour. The internecine controversies of 
the Trinitarians, on which Burnet's History expatiates, 
no doubt gave an impulse to Unitarianism ; and it was 
an attack on the doctrine of the Trinity, published in 
February 1698, which excited the bill **for the more 
"effectual suppression of blasphemy and profaneness" 
accorded, on July 5 following, the Royal Assent*. While 
its fate remained in suspense Burnet wrote as follows, in 
Latin (uiider date London, May 27), to his friend Van 

'* I do not wonder that you are so seriously concerned 
** at our divisions. We have here many wrangling divines, 
** who but make bad worse. This is a curse common to all 
"ages and all Churches. But we have now a yet more 
" urgent cause for indignation. For among us many 
"openly revolt against Christianity, treating it as a fraud. 
" These men now-a-days unmask themselves in very bare- 
" faced fashion, though hitherto they have tried to pass 
as Socinians. And even the Socinians here depart 
strangely from [the faith] of their brethren abroad... and 
"frankly encourage Scepticism. They... publish pamph- 
" lets in which they studiously indoctrinate the populace 
"with two principles. One is that nothing should be 

^ This Act, though amended in relief of Unitarian controversialists, still 
remains on the Statute-Book. 


1697-8] Burnet to Van Limborch on the same 2A1 

" believed which cannot be distinctly conceived. And 
'* thus they insinuate that God must have bodily form, and 
** be bound by the laws of space ; and that matter must 
** be coeternal with him. Another tenet is, that the eccle- 
"siastical order, under whatever name or form, is to be 
** absolutely abolished; so that religion is to be retained with 
" the status of a philosophy, but not with that of a society. 
'* These opinions they propagate without the slightest 
** reserve. When so vile a race of men, whose morals 
*' reflect their impiety, openly assault the citadel, it is not 
" astonishing if the more violent let things slip which we shall 
"not record. They interpose their whole force to prevent 
" the passage of a law against impiety and blasphemy ; 
" though men convicted of such crimes are only excluded 
*'from public office, and first offences are condoned on a 
** profession of penitence. Nor are any under this law to be 
** condemned, but such as offend of malice prepense and 
" deliberately. Four sorts of blasphemy are enumerated ; 
"to deny the truth of the Christian Religion, or the 
" Divine Authority of the Sacred Text ; to maintain a 
''plurality of Gods; or to deny the Divinity of any One 
'* among the Persons of the Holy Trinity. This is the 
" formal wording of the law and such is the penalty ; and 
" yet many labour vehemently to hinder its passing, and 
" everywhere cry out against the penalties as a foretaste of 
"persecution. God knows whither all these things tend. 
" It is sufficiently clear with what zeal and vehemency our 
"atheists labour to promote impiety, and how feebly the 
" friends of religion oppose their efforts...." 

Van Limborch seems to have expressed some trepidation 
concerning the probable effect of the measure ; as a few 
months later we find Burnet responding: **...What you 
** write to me at large concerning the law lately carried is 
** worthy of you. Tne only object of the law was that some 
*' check should be imposed upon the licentiousness of the 
''irreligious, so as to hinder them from openly venting their 
''blasphemous fury against religion; which seems urgently 
" to require repression. But as no single prosecution, thus 
"far, has taken place under this law, so the law itself is 
"framed in such a manner, that it may apply to no one on 
"account of mere opinions, even if he openly maintain 

348 Peter the Great [ch. ix 

*• them ; unless he attack sacred things in lewd terms ; as 
*' our atheists hitherto have almost universally done, though 
"at present they act more cautiously rather than more 
"modestly." Meanwhile the Socinians, in addition to 
undermining Christian doctrine, "openly argue in favour of 
"free love, even without the formality of divorce. Such 
"doctrines, propagated among the crowd, and almost uni- 
"versally discussed, have produced such a dissolution of 
" manners as gives us the most melancholy prospect. May 
" God be merciful to us and deign to avert those evils from 
" us. Moreover, the clergy are become so corrupt and sunk 
" in such sloth and ignorance that almost nothing amongst 
"us seems to remain sound. Pardon a melancholy man 
"that pours out his thoughts into your bosom." 

To other correspondents, meanwhile, he wrote on more 
cheerful topics. His Thanksgiving Sermon of the preceding 
December had drawn a happy parallel between the Queen 
of Sheba, to whom its text refers, and the "mighty 
" Northern Emperor" (Peter the Great) on his way to learn 
the arts of government at the feet of the Stadtholder-King. 
During the session just described the Czar had reached 
England. On the strength, no doubt, of Burnet's multi- 
farious learning — of his interest in the Greek church — and of 
his proficiency in the Dutch tongue (which the Czar had 
recently acquired) — the Bishop, assisted by competent 
interpreters, was deputed by the King and his Episcopal 
colleagues to offer the great man "such informations of our 
"religion and constitution as he was willing to receive." 
Foreign ambassadors commented on Burnet's frequent 
access, and on the affability evinced by the Czar to the 
English prelates in general ; while Burnet's contemporary 
correspondence, as compared with his History, shows far 
more appreciation of the man of genius, latent in the 
savage. Thus on March 19 [1698] he wrote as follows to 
Dr Fall. 

" Since you went the Czar came once to Lambeth, and 
"saw both an Ordination and a Sacrament, and was much 
"pleased with it. I have been oft with him. On Monday 
"last I was four hours there. We went through many 
" things. He has a degree of knowledge I did not think 
"him capable of. He has read the Scriptures carefully. 

1697-8] Burnet and the Czar 349 

" He hearkened to no part of what I told him more atten- 
"tively than when I explained the authority that the 
*' Christian Emperors assumed in matters of religion, and 
'*the supremacy of our kings." It is, as Klopp says, a 
curious question how far the seed thus sown may be 
responsible for the Church-policy subsequently adopted by 
the Czar, and for its widely reacting effects. 

But dogma, no less than policy, occupied the august 
controversialist. ** I convinced him," asserts Burnet, 
** that the question of the Procession of the Holy Ghost 
''was a subtilty that ought not to be made a schism in the 
" Church. He yielded that Saints ought not to be prayed 
**to; and was only for keeping the picture of Christ, but 
** that it ought only to be a remembrance and not an object 
"of worship. I insisted much to shew him the great 
" designs of Christianity in the reforming men's hearts and 
"lives, which he assured me he would apply himself to.... 
** The Czar will either perish in the way or become a great 
"man." A few days later Burnet records "...The Czar's 
"priest is come over, who is a truly holy man, and more 
" learned than I could have imagined, but thinks it is a great 
"piece of religion to be no wiser than his fathers, and 
"therefore cannot bear the thought of imagining that 
"anything among them can want amendment" 

Burnet seems also to have reported the episode to the 
celebrated Leibnitz, then in the service of the house of 
Guelph ; since on April 5 we find Leibnitz congratulating 
the English Church in general, and Burnet in particular, on 
the appreciative attitude of the Czar; whose sympathy 
might facilitate the introduction of the reformed religion 
into the neighbouring Empire of China, which hitherto had 
been abandoned to the missionary zeal of the Jesuits. 
"Monsieur Boyle," so Leibnitz judges from "Texcellent 
"sermon funebre" with which Burnet had honoured his 
memory, would have embraced this design with warmth; 
but his pious endeavours must surely have left emulators in 
both England and Holland. Such hints, as we shall find, 
were by no means lost on Burnet. 

Meanwhile one of Burnet's letters to Fall, already 
quoted (under date April 5J contains further interesting 
allusions. We find Burnet tnanking his correspondent for 

350 The Spanish Sticcession [ch. ix 

*'a most acceptable present... Lord Fairfax's memoirs... 
"writ... with an air of sincerity and piety." Is Fall's copy, 
he enquires, really holograph } 

But more immediate topics press to the front ; for the 
European situation seemed alarming in the extreme. The 
King of Spain lay apparently in extremis. France and 
Austria, heirs by blood of the childless potentate, but barred, 
in the case of the former, by formal renunciation, hovered, 
as it were, like political vultures on the diplomatic horizon. 
William, once secretly pledged to Austria, now thought 
himself compelled by failing health, the critical state of 
Holland, and the exhaustion of the confederates, to aim at 
a compromise. Vague rumours of his secret negotiations 
with France seem to have become current; while the 
shameless venality which kept guard over the sick bed in 
the Escurial was more accurately gauged. ''We are now," 
continues Burnet, *' in expectations of the King of Spain's 
"death. The King of France has desired the King's 
" mediation with relation to the succession to that Crown, 
" and offers the Duke of Berri. That Crown is like to be 
''sold by the Council of Spain as that of Poland was last 
" year. We fall into new discourses of plots and assassina- 
" tions. Some pretead to make discoveries ; the Great Day 
"will make many. I hope your retirement does not so 
"entirely possess you as to make you forget those who are 
"in the crowd and storm...." 

Events, in fact, were tending to place Burnet in a 
position of increased responsibility, and correspondingly 
increased odium. On the death of the Queen a formal 
reconciliation had been engineered between the King and 
his heir the Princess Anne ; and by the summer of 1 698 
her only surviving child, the Duke of Gloucester, was 
supposed, at the mature age of eight, to require a separate 

Shrewsbury, whom the King would have appointed 
governor, himself saw the propriety of conciliating the 
Princess, by selecting, for a post so intimate. Lord Marl- 
borough, husband of her confidant. William, who had 
every reason to distrust this intriguing pair, for long de- 
murred ; and only yielded on finding that the alternative was 
the appointment of Lord Rochester, uncle to the Princess, 

1698] Question of the Preceptorship 351 

an extreme party-man. But he yielded with unusual, and 
very politic, grace ; admitting Marlborough to political office, 
and even apparently to favour. 

Since Marlborough's connections were rather with the 
Tory camp, the Whigs doubtless claimed the preceptorship; 
and Burnet's Revolution sympathies, professional experience, 
and intellectual reputation, marked him out for the post. 
But the suggestion was by no means palatable to the 
Princess Anne. She heartily disliked Burnet ; who, in the 
great struggle of 1692, had shown himself her sister's 
partizan, and the opponent of the Marlboroughs. More- 
over her own choice had fallen on Dr Hooper, who had 
been at one time her sister's chaplain at the Hague, and 
who, in that capacity, had incurred William's dislike. Seldom 
considerate of others, and no doubt regarding the appoint- 
ment of Marlborough as a sufficient sop to the Princess, 
William now persisted. 

Burnet, on the other hand, was averse from the post, on 
public no less than private grounds. The latter are easily 
grasped ; even his self-complacency was not altogether 
proof to the tokens of Princess Anne's dislike. " I had " 
(he admits) "some intimations that I was not acceptable" 
to her. Lord Godolphin, indeed (ostensibly at Anne's 
desire) combatted the Bishop's conviction: "yet," says 
Burnet, with unusual acumen, ** I had reason to believe 
" there was some ground " for the report. Moreover, in a 
household composed of Tories and ** rigid" churchmen, he 
could expect little quarter ; and though Lord Marlborough, 
with his accustomed diplomacy, hastened to evince gratifi- 
cation — though even his tempestuous wife expressed a 
gracious acquiescence — ^the attitude of the rest of the 
establishment was singularly hostile. 

Burnet's public grounds for hesitation are, per contra, 
rather mysterious. During the six months which had 
elapsed since his glowing eulogy of William he had " become 
"uneasy at some things in the... conduct" of the monarch 
he had lauded. He still considered the King as ** a glorious 
" instrument raised up by God, Who had done great things 
'*by him"; and still acknowledged **such obligations to 
'• him" as compelled a resolve "on [private] as well as [public] 
''accounts, never to engage in any opposition to him." 

352 Bumefs reasons for declining [ch. ix 

And yet, says Burnet, '* I could not help thinking he might 
" have carried matters further than he did, and that he was 
"giving his enemies handles to weaken his government." 
To what these cryptic charges refer, we cannot accurately 
say. Burnet may have resented the King's efforts to retain 
a standing army; or may have regarded as excessive his 
diplomatic tenderness for Papists. He may have suspected 
the influence of the Villiers clan, the family of the discarded 
mistress ; he may have been mortified by the failure of his 
own attempts to improve the revenue of the clergy. In 
any case '* I had," he says, " tried, but with little success, 
•* to use all due freedom with [the King] ; he did not love 
*' to be found fault with ; and though he bore everything I 
" said very gently yet he either discouraged me with silence 
*' or answered in such expressions, that they signified little 
"or nothing.'* Dartmouth's comment on this passage is 
amusing. " King William,*' he says, '* always complained 
" of Burnet's breaking in upon him whether he would or no, 
"and asking such questions as he did not know how to 
" answer, without trusting him more than he was willing to 
" do ; having a very bad opinion of his retentive faculty." 

Eventually, Burnet was persuaded to accept the pre* 
ceptorship ; and was on the point of taking the preliminary 
oaths, when a tragic event gave a pretext for recoil. 

Eleven years had passed since his marriage to Mary 
Scott, which had proved a happy one. " I found in her," 
says Burnet, "a religious, discreet, and good-tempered 
" friend, who was a prudent manager of my affairs, and a 
" very good mistress of a family ; and she had a very 
" particular art of making herself acceptable to all people. 
" She bore me seven children, five boys and two daughters 
"that were born twins; two of the boys died.. ..She gave 
" them all suck and was a tender mother to them all." 

As soon as peace had secured the narrow seas, Mrs 
Burnet realised the necessity of a visit to her native land ; 
for her extensive property, estimated at ;^30,ooo, was 
invested in Dutch securities. She had however (as Burnet 
subsequently discovered^ a presentiment of impending 
death, which she concealed even from her husband. She 
made secret but elaborate preparation for the apprehended 
event ; and even managed, without exciting suspicion, to 

1698] Death of the second Mrs Burnet 353 

discuss, in conversation with her husband, the future of 
their children. The Burnets had a common friend in a 
saintly and intelligent woman, who had been some years a 
widow. Mrs Burnet had sometimes described her as a 
woman fit to be, in the highest sense of the word, the 
Bishop's helpmeet ; and she now, as if fortuitously, let fall 
a wish that, in case of her own premature death, Mrs 
Berkeley might be induced to become **her children's 

Her forebodings were punctually fulfilled. She left 
England May 29 ; and hardly had she reached Rotterdam 
ere, ** being in a house where the small-pox was," she 
contracted the infection. The intimation of her illness was 
almost immediately followed by the news of her death * ; 
" je Tai perdu," wrote Burnet pathetically, "devant {sic) que 
*' je Tai cm malade." To a man of his affectionate nature the 
shock must have been great ; and he appeared " a most 
" deserted mourner." 

Meanwhile, as Burnet himself puts it, he "laid hold on 
"this domestic affliction," and the necessity for closer atten- 
tion to the affairs of his young family, as a plea for declining 
the preceptorship ; and ** wrote earnestly to that effect " to 
his "best friends." We trust he does not include among 
these the wily old apostate Sunderland, who in a polite 
letter, dated June 29. declines to intercede ; *' if I have any 
"credit at all, you... shall be sent for." A more appro- 
priate agent was Burnet's metropolitan, Tenison ; whose 
answer to a second urgent representation is dated June 28. 
It describes an interview with William, in which Tenison 
had submitted Burnet's prayer. " The King," proceeds the 
Archbishop, "expressed himself with great tenderness.... 
' He still desires you to come as soon as with decency 
' you can. He looks upon you as a divine, who in such 
' cases had comforted many^ and thinks it will look best, 
' not to suffer such a cross to get such a power over you as 
*to make you decline so public a service. He spoke to 

* this effect without my urging my private opinion, which 
' is what it was.... It is true if no steps had been made in 

* this affair, your excuse would easier have made its way ; 

* June ^, 1698. 

' A reference to the death ot Queen Mary seems to be implied. 


354 Burnet accepts the Preceptorship [ch. ix 

"but seeing things are so far advanced it seems not proper 
'* to go back. It upon this, that hopeful Prince should fall 
" into such hands as are unfit, your Lordship would then 

Thus adjured Burnet yielded; and was summoned by ex- 
press to Windsor. On his first audience, he begged leave 
to resign his bishopric ; on the plea that his new charge 
must conflict with diocesan duties. The King, ** surprised *' 
at this unexpected request, declined to accede ; but a com- 
promise was effected. The Bishop, when in London, was 
to take up his abode for the future at St James's Palace, 
then in the occupation of the Princess. But William under- 
took that his nephew should spend each summer at Windsor, 
within the diocese of Sarum ; and that ten weeks should 
be annually allowed the Bishop for inspecting the rest of 
his flock. 

The emoluments of the post, excluding allowances, 
amounted to ;^1500 a year; but these Burnet never 
touched ; the whole was devoted by him to charitable uses. 
A document is extant, in which Burnet makes arrangements 
for the distribution of a fifteenth part at the hands of the 
archdeacon of Berks; since, as Burnet says, "I cannot now 
"give that constant attendance on... my diocese, which I 
" ought to do, if I were not engaged in an employment of 
" great importance." The sum was to be divided in three 
equal parts ; devoted respectively to the needs of the 
poorer clergy, apprenticeships, and the maintenance of 
University exhibitions. In both these latter cases the sons 
of poor parsons were (ceteris paribus) to be preferred. 

Burnet s own view of his appointment is given in his 
correspondence with Van Limborch. *' The letter [of 
" condolence]," he says, " which you addressed to me six 
"months ago, was very welcome to me... under the most 
" melancholy affliction which has yet befallen me. But so 
" soon as I had paid those dues to natural affection which it 
" is hard, and scarce Christian to withhold, I was forced to 
"embrace other interests. God alone knows what things 
" are profitable or needful for us ; it becomes us calmly to 
"submit ourselves and all our concerns to His will.... Your 
" congratulations on the charge committed to me with 
" respect to the Prince's education, show your friendly 

1 698-1700] Education of the Duke of Gloucester 355 

** sentiments towards me. I confess this office is a highly 
'* honorable one, on the wise management of which much 
"depends. I see in the Princes talents and inclinations 
'* cause for the highest hopes. But alas ! what can be 
" hoped in a Court, which, surrounded by so many 
"temptations and crowded by so many flatterers, easily 
" diverts the mind, prone by nature to luxury and ambition, 
"from the best counsels. I shall take particular care to 
" place ever before him the best examples. I make 
" Xenophon s Cyropadia my text-book, and have already 
"twice read that book through with him. I shall also 
"endeavour to make the names of Alexander, falsely 
"styled the Great, and of Julius Caesar, ever odious in his 
** eyes. Their [example] even from the cradle infects nearly 
"all princes with distorted principles. I set ever before 
"him the incompatibility of true piety with superstition 
"and cruelty. Hitherto everything has gone on as well 
" as I could desire ; but other dangers will arise in a few 
" years' time, against which I shall studiously prepare every 
"possible precaution." 

In his History Burnet has left a detailed sketch of the 
methods he pursued with his pupil. He supervised the 
general education of the little boy ; taking for his own 
province (in addition to religion and morals) the interdepen- 
dent departments of history, geography and politics. The 
child was old for his age, and learned with surprising 
facility ; and Burnet, like the rest of his generation, failed 
to recognise in such precocity a danger-signal, the frequent 
concomitant, indeed, of water on the brain. This deadly 
disease, which had already proved fatal to many of the 
sixteen infant brothers and sisters who had predeceased the 
poor child, is intensified by premature application ; and 
Burnet's lessons, though conveyed in the least fatiguing 
manner possible, being conducted viva voce, for about three 
hours a day, must have proved extremely deleterious. 

Of the relations between teacher and pupil but one 
token remains ; a pathetically childish note in which the 
little Prince acknowledges a "kind letter" from his pre- 
ceptor, hopes for his return, and signs himself " your most 
" affectionate friend." The Bathurst family, however, long 
preserved the anecdote of an ancestor, who had been the 


356 The Household of Princess Anne [ch. dc 

child's play-mate ; and who, hinting surprise at the little 
Duke's civility to the tutor he disliked, received the cruel 
reply, ** Do you think I have been so long a pupil of Dr 
** Burnet's without learning to be a hypocrite ? " Here we 
may trace a childish recapitulation of the opinions enter- 
tained by the majority of the Princess Anne's household. 

That the feelings of the Princess herself were softened 
by intercourse with her son's preceptor, we do not doubt ; 
though it may be questioned whether she ever conceived 
for him that "peculiar regard" of which his family supposed 
him to have received ** some sensible marks." For if she 
learned to acquit him of self-will and ambition, she still, 
it is clear, thought Burnet meddling and officious. Burnet, 
on his part, who knew nothing of her advances to St 
Germain, conceived a sincere respect for Princess Anne's 
domestic virtues. He came to regard with far more 
leniency her share in the dissensions with her sister. He 
opined that after Mary's death she showed a dignified self- 
restraint ; and acknowledged that her position, in itself 
difficult, was rendered none the less onerous by the 
suspicions of the Whigs. 

In'her household, however, Burnet gained few friends ; 
and his unpopularity is wittily commemorated in a set of 
satiric verses which relate to this period of his career. 
During his tenure of office, alterations seem to have been 
made in St James's Chapel ; where were introduced (as 
some say, for the first time) the " horsebox " pews which 
during the century succeeding were to disfigure the parish 
churches of ^England. The wits in the following stanzas 
made Burnet responsible for the change. For, so they 
tell us, 

"When B[urne]t perceived that the beautiful dames 
" Who flocked to the Chapel of holy St James, 
"On their lovers the kindest of looks did bestow 
"And smiled not on him, while he bellowed below, 

"To the Princess he went 

"With pious intent 
"This dangerous ill in the church to prevent; 
" * Oh madam ! ' quoth he, * our religion is lost 
" * If the ladies thus ogle the Knights of the Toast, 

"'Your Highness observes how I labour and sweat, 
" * Their affections to raise, and new flames to beget 

1 698- 1 700] Burnet and Marlborough 2>S1 

'''And sure, when I preach, all the world will agree, 
"^That their ears and their eyes should be pointed on me 

•"But now I can't find, 
" * One beauty so kind, 
"'As my parts to regard, or nly presence to mind 

" ' [Pray] build up the seats, that the beauties may see, 
" ' The face of no brawny pretender but me.' 

" The Princess, by rude importunities pressed, 

"Though she laughed at his reasons, allowed his request, 

"And now Britain's nymphs, in a Protestant reign 

"Are locked up at prayers like the virgins in Spain," etc., etc. 

His disfavour with the courtiers of Princess Anne, 
however, admitted, as we have seen, of two significant 
exceptions ; " I lived very well," he says, " with [Lord 
" Marlborough and his Lady], and I thought that was 

Burnet, as we are aware, had long been prepossessed 
against the Churchills, and this on excellent grounds. 
Now, however, and clearly for the first time, he came 
under the spell of the most seductive intellect in Europe. 
Day by day he conversed with the urbane diplomatist, 
whose charm, to quote Churchill's enemy Chesterfield, 
neither man nor woman could resist. And all the arts 
of an accomplished suavity were, it is clear, deliberately 
focussed upon Burnet 

A man without political interests or political pre- 
possessions, Marlborough was connected with the Tory 
camp by the rigidly " Church " sympathies of Princess 
Anne. But the Tories were out of power ; and impotent 
to dispose of the military responsibilities, the military 
emoluments, which Marlborough so persistently coveted. 
The Whigs at this moment appeared the more influential 
party ; and Burnet was a Whig nominee. 

Eight years later, when the historic coalition between 
Marlborough and the Whigs was gradually taking shape, 
Burnet told a Whig minister **wny he thought [Marl- 
"borough and his friends] true to the English" {i,e. the 
Revolution) "interest." The prelate (so writes the 
Minister) "told me... of... Marlborough's early and most 
"earnest professions to him (even with solemn oaths and 

358 The Bishop of St David's [ch. ix 

"imprecations) of his honest intentions." Burnet "was 
*' sure France had tried " both Marlborough and Godol- 
phin ; ** and yet very early " (before overt action against 
France) the French ** by Bishop Ken and other their 
'* emissaries did what [they] could to blast them." This is 
clearly an echo of Churchill's specious self-exculpation. 
And what these calculated blandishments began, good 
oflfices were to consolidate, patriotism and party passion to 
achieve. The gradual stages of Burnet's subjugation can 
be traced, with absolute precision, in the successive revisions 
of the History. 

Meanwhile, during the Parliamentary Session which 
succeeded Burnet's appointment (and which followed on 
a general election, mainly favourable to the Whigs) the 
question of the military estimates became once more acute. 
Restrained as is Burnet's language, he clearly admits the 
impolicy of William's attempt to retain the Dutch Guards ; 
which, with his continued devotion to his continental home, 
and the rumour of secret understandings between himself 
and France, increased his unpopularity in England. 

The summer saw the determination of a notorious cause 
cilebre which still ranks with the ** leading cases" of 
ecclesiastical jurisprudence. On August 3, 1699, after four 
years' litigation in the Archbishop's Court (Burnet ranking 
as Assessor), judgment was given against Dr Watson, 
Bishop of St David's ; charged with simony, extortion, and 
the issue of false certificates importing that persons concerned 
had duly taken the oaths to the govertintent. Watson was 
a quasi- Jacobite Tory ; and his friends represented the 
prosecution (which aroused the most intense excitement) as 
a purely party move. The legal issues proved as complicated 
as important, and some are still regarded as open to question. 
Watson fought the case with the utmost tenacity ; he 
disputed jurisdiction at every step ; and was never weary 
of appealing. That substantial justice was done we need 
not doubt. Even Dartmouth, a strong Tory, describes 
the charge of simony as proved ; and scarifies Watson's 
character, and the motives of his supporters. But we 
should not care to pronounce, prima facie, that Watson's 
friends had no foundation for their certainly clamourous 
complaints that he appeared before a prejudiced tribunal. 

1698-9] Burnet and Locke 359 ) 

Whether his judges did or did not show greater leniency to 
the Whig Bishop Jones, accused almost simultaneously of 
similar practices, does not greatly matter; for both were 
eventually deprived by sentence of the Court. But it is 
certain that Burnet betrayed a decided animus against 
Watson ; and that neither Tenison nor Burnet possessed 
the judicial faculty. They could not, at will, divorce 
intellect from passion ; or regard the legal aspects of a case 
in abstraction from all prepossessions, whether moral or 
emotional, political or religious. 

In another episode of this period, however, Burnet 
showed more impartiality. It has been surmised, probably 
with truth, that there was not much love lost between 
Burnet and the philosopher Locke ; while Burnet's esteem 
and admiration for Stillingfleet (by this time Bishop of 
Worcester) were of very long standing. Stillingfleet some 
years earlier had animadverted on the religious tendency of 
Locke s Essay on Human Understanding-, and a controversy 
had followed, which, during the years 1696-99, had 
attracted great attention. In this, by general consent, 
Stillingfleet was badly worsted. Never a match for Locke, 
on Locke's own ground, his health was now failing ; and he 
committed the unpardonable solecism of charging Locke 
personally with an explicit belief in every doctrine which 
Stillingfleet's logic could deduce from the premisses of the 
Essay. On this point Burnet, in a letter to Le Clerc, writes 
with admirable candour. ** What you say," he comments, "of 
"the Bishop of Worcester... is too true. The dispute was 
"certainly unworthy of him. There was a gross mis- 
'* representation of Mr Locke's notions, which I hope is 
" now at an end, though it had been more to the Bishop's 
"honour that it had never been beg^n. But every man 
"does not know where his strength lies. When there is 
" visibly a design to throw off the Christian religion, a just 
" zeal against that is apt to raise jealousies both of persons 
"and things that have no relation to it, but are very 
" innocent." x 

No less creditable is it to find Burnet applauding a . 
famous attack by the Nonjuror Collier on the profaneness y 
and immorality of the contemporary English stage. y 

We must now turn to a very fascinating topic, on 


360 Burnet and Leibnitz [ch. ix 

which we have already touched ; the intercourse between 
Burnet and the vast and versatile genius of Gottfried 
Leibnitz. Ostensibly Librarian and Privy Councillor to 
the Courts of Brunswick, we may more truly describe 
him as the focus in which, as his latest biographer well 
expresses it, " the scattered tendencies and aspirations of 
"his age united." The correspondence (from which we 
have already quoted, and which we trace as far back as 
1696), arose very naturally. Though Leibnitz had visited 
England, it is unlikely that the two had met. But they had 
had common friends in Robert Boyle, in James Johnston, 
(at one time Envoy to Berlin), in Burnet of Kenmay, a 
distant cousin of the Bishop's and a kind of '' tame cat " in 
the literary circle of the Electress. Absurd as it would be 
to rank Burnet, in the sphere of science and metaphysics, 
with the intellectual giant of his age, the two minds, on 
political and religious grounds, had a good deal in common. 
An indefatigable curiosity, an energy equally unwearied, 
are characteristic of both. The intelligence of either was 
broad, sane, pacificatory ; though in temper of course Leib- 
nitz, the bland and urbane, was more formed than was 
the impetuous Burnet for the office of peacemaker. On 
the crucial topics of politics and religion in their day— on 
the Socinian controversy and on the limits of passive 
obedience — their matured views coincided ; and both, 
even when discouraged by the attitude of the Hanoverian 
House, were ardent partizans of a Hanoverian succession. 
Burnet, however (the example of Grotius notwith- 
standing), would hardly have approved that strange secret 
negotiation for a conciliar solution of the great Western 
schism, which was encouraged, in view of the Turkish 
danger, by the Emperor and even the Pope ; and of which, 
during the years 1 693-1 701, Hanover became the centre, 
and Leibnitz the actual pivot. By 1695 ^he hope of success 
— always, one imagines, illusory — had dwindled almost to 
nothing. The Gallicans remained obstinate; the Protestants 
feared a pitfall ; Leibnitz was more intent on the English 
succession ; Spinola, the originator, died. Yet the subject 
of oecumenical or pseudo-oecumenical Councils retained for 
Leibnitz a special fascination ; and the interests of a friend, 
engaged on a history of the Council of Constance, seem 

1696-9] Irenical Projects 361 

to have originated in 1697 his correspondence with the 
historian of the English Reformation. 

Meanwhile, in 1697, ^'^ diplomatic arrogance of Louis 
XIV had dealt a crushing blow to the irenical project. 
The famous Fourth Clause of the Treaty of Ryswick^ 
inserted, at the last moment, on the threat of an immediate 
rupture, had abrogated, in favour of the Roman Catholics, 
the provisions of the Treaty of Westphalia, so far as this 
related to the restored provinces on the Rhine. The alarm 
and indignation of many Protestants recoiled upon the 
Emperor, by whom the terms had been accepted; while 
even the pacific Leibnitz, though he had resumed the 
negotiation with Rome, and was willing to countenance 
somewhat startling dogmatic concessions, seems to have 
practically concentrated his aim on the consolidation of 
Protestantism within the Empire. 

About the end of 1698, in answer apparently to a 
missing Latin epistle, he draughted, in French, a remarkable 
letter to Burnet Therein he informed his correspondent 
that the Court of Brandenburg had at heart a union of the 
Protestant confessions, and that a secret negotiation had 
commenced at Berlin " dont je suis Tentremetteur, en ayant 
'*m6me donne Touverture." Discretion be regarded as 
essential, till the Lutheran chiefs should be pre-engaged ; 
else contests might arise, which the Romanist party would 
foment The Lutheran theologians of Brunswick he con- 
sidered the most suitable mediators ; since they had long 
since refused to condemn the Calvinists outright. Mean* 
while, even Brandenburg realised that proposals peculiar 
to that Court might arouse jealousies in the North. This 
plea however could not be raised against a project endorsed 
by the English King. Moreover " les th^ologiens de 
"TEglise Anglicane passent pour les plus mod^r^s des 
"R^form^s" (Calvinists) "et pour les plus approch^s des 
"n6tres," i.e. the Lutherans; while several English Bishops 
''comme aussi , t University cCAbredon}'' (Aberdeen) "et 
" plusieurs docteurs c^lfebres de votre lie se sont expliqu^s 
*'dune mani^re que donne les plus grandes esp^rances." 
The King, on the eve of his return to England, had been 
initiated ; had approved the design ; and had referred the 
matter to Portland. 

^ Omitted in the printed version. 

362 Leibnitz an Protestant Reunion [ch. ix 

The conjuncture Leibnitz thinks a happy one. Nego- 
tiations set on foot mid the troubles of the Thirty Years* 
War had dropped with the Westphalian settlement; but 
now that France has hurled an ** apple of discord " into the 
Empire ; now that the Romanists, relying on her, try to 
extend the incidence of the Ryswickian Clause, till at this 
rate there will scarce remain a Protestant beyond the 
Rhine, it behoves more than ever that Protestants should 
unite. But it must be so done, as not to alarm Vienna and 
Versailles. Let the King, he suggests, broach the matter 
to a small Committee ; including perhaps Burnet, Tenison 
and Portland. 

Then follows in the draught of the letter a paragraph 
never actually sent. In this Leibnitz had intended to 
point out, how important it was for the interests of 
Protestantism in Europe that the English reversion should 
be fixed on the indubitably Protestant Hanoverians. As 
a matter of fact, though Leibnitz may not have known this, 
the sudden treachery of Savoy to the Grand Alliance had 
alone diverted William from the scheme of a Savoyard 
succession. By the end of 1696 Leibnitz seems to have 
been cooperating with the King in sounding the sentiments 
of the Electress; and, as these proved still uncertain, 
William, just before the date of this letter, had, as Leibnitz 
tells Burnet, broached the topic to the Princess. The 
King, however, thought fit to defer the publication of his 
views ; might it not be well to strengthen his hands by 
manoeuvring an address on the subject from the House of 
Commons ? In writing this Leibnitz no doubt contemplated 
forcing the hand of his still reluctant mistress. On consider- 
ation however, such action appeared to him too bold ; and 
the passage was finally cancelled. With a graceful allusion 
to a letter, in which Burnet had informed the Electress of 
his recent loss, and which had consoled her in her own 
affliction for the death of her husband, Leibnitz therefore 
concluded. A postscript observed, that Leibnitz answered 
in French the Bishop s *' belle lettre latine/* for the sake of 
some, to whom it might be desirable to show the communi- 
cation : but that he understood English sufficiently ** pour 
" pouvoir recevoir vos ordres en cette langue." 

Burnet accordingly answered in his own tongue dating 
from St James s, the 17th February O.S. 1699. 

1698-9] Burnet responds 363 

*' Most honoured Sir, 

" Since you are pleased to allow me the liberty of 
** writing to you in our own language, I willingly lay hold 
** of it I do not wonder to find all languages so familiar 
** to one of so comprehensive and universal a genius. Very 
"often those who deal in many things are slight and 
** superficial in them all ; but it is a very singular character 
" to know so many things, and to go so profoundly to the 
*' depth of everything. By your last I see your zeal and 
** application to the concerns of our common religion. The 
** truth is, we divines, who should preach up the obligations 
"to charity and peace, are so eager and so set on the 
** maintaining of parties, and the supporting those notions 
*'that we are engaged in, that I am afraid we are not 
** capable of healing the wounds of the Church ; we are liker 
"to make the breach wider than to heal it. In particular, 
*' most of the Lutheran divines write with a fierceness that 
"does not become the meekness of Christ. It is true those 
**of your parts have been much more moderate since 
"Calixtus* time. I am glad to understand from so good 
"a hand that the dangers which seem hanging over all our 
" Churches do dispose men to hearken to wise and healing 
** counsels. I have laid the contents of your letter before 
" the Archbishop of Canterbury and some of our Bishops, 
**who are very glad to see that men come to a better 
" temper. You are not pleased to tell me in what manner 
" the expedient now offered is set forth ; whether only as 
"a civil and political union, or as a conjunction of the 
" Churches in one Communion ; and whether that is offered 
**at, leaving all parties to their several opinions; or if 
**some consent of doctrine among them is agreed on. If 
" this method is taken I doubt it will have no good effect ; 
" for neither side will yield, and the falling on some formula 
"capable of equivocal senses will lay an imputation of 
"deceit on both sides and cannot continue long. The 
" only way, in my poor opinion, to establish a good corre- 
" spondence among you, is to follow the method that we 
" have followed so happily in England. As to the manner 
"of the Presence we do only reject Transubstantiation ; but 
'* leave the rest free to Divines to explain or illustrate it 

364 Burnet on the Thirty-Nine Articles [ch. ix 

"as they please. Some contend for a real, others for a 
" figurative Presence ; but this makes no quarrel among 
" us. And as for the point of Predestination our Articles 
" do indeed favour S. Austin's doctrine, yet not so formally 
"but that men of other persuasions may with a good 
"conscience sign them; so though the greater number 
" among us receives that doctrine commonly called Arminian, 
" yet some there are, both Bishops and others, who are for 
" Absolute Decrees ; but we do all not only hold one 
" Communion but live in great love and friendship together, 
'* notwithstanding that diversity of opinion. Some method 
"of this kind is that which must heal the breach among 
" you, or it must be given over as desperate and incurable. 
" When you think fit to let me know more particularly the 
" state of the negotiation among you, I will communicate it 
" to the Archbishop, who will lay it before the King, and 
"do everything in his power by which he can contribute to 
•'so good a work...." 

As this proposition came to nothing, the chief interest 
for us lies in its possible influence upon the final revision 
of Burnet's great work on the Articles, published in the 
Michaelmas term following. 

For seven years that work had remained in manuscript ; 
it had been submitted to the criticism of Tenison and 
Sharp, of Stillingfleet and Patrick, of Hall and Williams. 
** It lay," says Burnet, "some considerable time in both 
" Universities, and was read by many, all approving of it" ; 
though some dissuaded him from publication fearing mali- 
cious retorts. At length, when the Peace of Ryswick had 
brought Anglicanism once more face to face with Con- 
tinental Romanism, he determined to publish his Apologia 
pro EccUsia sua. 

In the preface to this magnum opus Burnet claims rather 
the character of a historian and compiler than of a sub- 
stantiate author. He has aimed at resuming the intellectual 
result of post-reformation Anglicanism ; laying stress upon 
the great men of their respective epochs. In especial he 
enumerates Jewel, " the lasting honour of the see in which... 
"God has put me"; Reynolds, Humphreys, Whitaker, 
Whitgift, Hooker, the Archbishop of Spalata ; Laud, whose 
anti-Roman treatise *'writ with great learning, judgment 

1699] Burnet on the Calvinist Position 365 

'* and exactness " is second only to that of Chillingworth ; 
Pocock and Lightfoot ; Hammond and the great Pearson ; 
while among later divines Stillingfleet is given the preference. 

Respecting Subscription, he emphasizes the apparent 
hardship of compelling expressed allegiance to so compli- 
cated a body of doctrine. He traces the causes which lead 
to an elaboration of dogma, and the special circumstances 
which compelled the Reformers to dissociate themselves 
alike from Roman superstition and Antinomian license. In 
respect of the laity, he argues, the Articles are but Articles 
of Peace or Communion ; the clergy however are bound, 
in conscience, to a complete assent and consent. Yet 
where the Articles are really ambiguous they may be 
honestly signed by men of varying views. 

Theologically, the Exposition of the Thirty-Nine Articles 
will be judged by the prepossessions of its readers ; but all 
may agree to eulogize its literary merit. In the lucid 
condensation of theological argument Burnet has few equals ; 
and the historical summaries (which trace the progress of 
opinion on each several topic) are models of succinct 

The main interest of the work centres on the Predes- 
tinarian controversy. To it his attention had been specially 
directed by Queen Mary, whose sojourn in Holland, with 
the explicit Calvinism of her husband, lent it in her eyes 
a peculiar prominence. Moreover, as we have already 
hinted, the irenical projects of Leibnitz may, at the last, 
have intensified Burnet's interest on this head, and induced 
a double stress on his original aim. This was, so to set 
out the arguments on either side that all might realise the 
inadequacy of human intelligence, and the need for mutual 
forbearance on so recondite a subject. Unanimity or even 
^, formula concordia he thinks impossible. But the common 
credenda which underly both theories may be thrown into 
relief; and men may learn that an honest divergence of 
view need be no bar to communion. 

For such a part Burnet was peculiarly fitted. His own 
conversion from Calvinistic views had been gradual, and 
had not entailed the violent revulsion of feeling so often 
implied in such a change ; he could not abhor the 
doctrines to which Leighton had always clung. His treat- 

366 Hell-torfnents, Prayers for the Dead [ch. ix 

ment of the Calvinistic position therefore is extraordinarily 
calm and candid ; full justice is paid to its nobler aspects ; 
and in his preface he prides himself on the fact, that several, 
who had read the Exposition in manuscript, remained in 
doubt as to his own prepossessions. These, he allows, 
"follow the doctrine of the Greek Church from which 
•' St Austin departed." This doctrine, and that of the 
Arminians (though not identical with the dogmas held by 
the compilers of the Articles), are, he considers, compatible 
with their ** grammatical sense." 

A few minor points are of autobiographical interest* 
On the damnatory clauses of the Athanasian Creed Burnet 
observes that doubtless some errors, as well as all sins, are 
damnable ; but errors (as well as sins) of ignorance, are 
included in a general repentance. Original sin (the /cut 
of a ** corruption... born with every man") he r^;ards as 
patent in Experience ; the conclusion, that corruption 
cannot emanate from the Divine, as patent to Reason. His 
curious saying, that Adam s brain was a tabula rasa, suggests 
a study of Locke. As regards the sccpe of redemption he 
argues that men, though not saved 6y the law they profess, 
may be saved in it ; that though Christ be the only channel 
of mercy, an explicit knowledge of the fact cannot be 
indispensable to salvation. The endlessness of hell4orments 
(questioned by his friends Tillotson and Leibnitz) is un- 
equivocally asserted ; but we find the curious admission 
that the purgatorial texts cited by the Romans might be 
more validly urged against the doctrine of an endless hell. 
Prayers for the dead Burnet classes among practices (such 
as the administering of the Eucharist to infants) which, 
though neither scriptural nor primitive, are yet of high 
antiquity ; and have been abandoned solely on account of 
attendant abuses. He admits the arguments which may 
be paraded in favour of auricular confession, especially 
when left (as it is by **our Church") a ** matter of advice 
** and not of obligation " ; but dwells on the absence of 
warrant for universal compulsion, and the grave dangers 
which outweigh the apparent advantages of the practice. 
On the Scuramental question he deprecates equally the 
attitude of the Roman, who regards the Sacraments as a 
charm ; and the contrary extreme " of sinking the Sacraments 

J 699] Confession, Sacraments, Clerical Marriage 367 

"so low as to be mere rites and Ceremonies." Rather^ 
they are federal ; pledges, badges, and channels of Cove- 
nanted Grace. Baptism brings men within the Covenant ; 
but does not, he opines, remove the corruption of the flesh, 
which is ineradicable. The presence of Christ in the 
Eucharist he describes as * * real " but not * * corporal. " Against 
the Romanist he urges, with terrible effect, the saying of 
Augustine, that the actual devouring of Christ's flesh and 
blood would be a revolting fact ; the difficulties which 
confront devotees of the **new" Philosophy, who have 
abandoned the mediaeval metaphysics on which transub- 
stantiation relies ; and the futility of the perpetual miracles 
maintained by the Papists. For the spiritual results they 
deduce are claimed as well by the advocates of a purely 
spiritual presence; while the Roman is saddled with the 
dilemma, that a man may actually eat the Flesh of Christ to 
his own damnation. Yet, were the error merely speculative, 
men might bear with it, as with Lutheran consubstantiation ; 
ranking them together as fragments of false philosophy. 
It is the practiced effects of the transubstantiation theory 
which have become intolerable. 

Respecting the marriage of the clergy his attitude is 
somewhat unexpected in so much a married man. For 
while he maintains, in the strongest fashion, the criminality 
of imposing on the clergy an unwarranted restriction ; while 
he enlarges on the horrible results of enforced celibacy as 
displayed in mediaeval immorality ; he admits that from 
comparatively early times the marriage of men actually in 
orders had been regarded with disfavour. Leighton, 
Nairne and Charteris may have risen before him, when he 
himself gives preference to the unmarried parson ; who 
lives as a ** burning and shining light," under no tempta- 
tion to sacrifice his profession to his family. 

We must now, however, consider the reception of the 
work. The enthusiastic approbation of Leibnitz goes 
without saying: "jy trouve," he wrote, "un systeme de 
**th6ologie en abr^g6 des plus nerveux et des plus profonds, 
**et que plus est, des plus mod^r6s et des mieux conduits." 
The interests of the reconciliation project had led him to 
study, with especial care, the articles on predestination and 
the Eucharist: ** parce que ce sont les principaux points qui 

368 Reception of the IVork [ch. dc 

^'divisent les protestants.*..J'ai lu avec grand plaisir com- 
"*' ment le fort et le faible des deux partis est repr6sent6 dans 
*' votre commentaire." The part of the Expositian which 
relates to the 1 7th Article had been, he adds, published at 
Berlin in a Latin translation ; no doubt with a view to 
the irenical project. 

In England, Burnet declares, "for awhile all were silent 
^' about it They who on other accounts set themselves 
"against me, when they saw it generally well received 
^* were for a while at a stand." Their disapproval was none 
the less deep. The witty Dr South, for instance, com- 
plained that the Bishop had administered to the Church 
''forty stripes save one." Such men, says Burnet, 
'' thought it a presumption for any single person to 
''expound the doctrine of the Church. They did not 
" like a latitude of sense in which I had expounded the 
"Articles, chiefly those that related to Predestination. ••. 
"This had been more excusable if it had come from 
" Calvinists, for the words of the Articles do plainly favour 
" most of their tenets ; but it was very strange when it 
"came from Arminians, and shewed they would even 
'* wound themselves to thrust at me." That which they 
most resented was "that I had not carried Church power 
'* higher ; that I had owned the foreign [Protestant] 
'* Churches to be true Churches, and that I had so flatly 
'* condemned the [corporal] presence in the Sacrament." 
Burnet carefully read the many attacks which appeared ; but 
he thought none of them important ; and only answered 
one — an anonymous attack on his explanation of the Second 
Article. This he attributed to a non-resident clergyman of 
his own diocese ; who (Burnet suggests) might be better 
employed in looking after his flock than in criticizing 
his bishop. 

To the summer of 1699 belongs an interesting and 
pathetic letter, addressed by Burnet to his friend Dr Fall. 
As a nonjuror. Fall had retired from the Rectorship of 
Glasgow University, and had been collated in 1697 to the 
precentorship of York. The letter is dated Windsor 
Castle 25 July 1699; and shows how much Burnet clung 
to the friends of his youth. 

" I read yours with relation to our pious and worthy 

1699] Concerning Aird and Charteris 369 

** friend Mr Aird \ with a very sensible concern. It would 
** only give indignation against those spiteful men for their 
** attempt on the good name of so exemplary a person, 
** if he were of a temper strong enough to bear their 
** malice with the just contempt that is due to it But 
** every man has not that brawny callus upon him as to 
** false imputations that God has blessed some with. I 
** confess all the lies and calumnies of your friends the 
"Jacobites, whether in print or discourse, have never been 
** able to raise in me one uneasy thought. But good Mr 
" Aird is not so insensible ; and therefore I have a hearty 
** tenderness for him, and a true sympathy with him. 
" Calumny went yet higher against our blessed Master ; 
**and then we have the seal of our discipleship, when we 
** can drink the bitterest cup that our heavenly Father puts 
** in our hand, saying, * Father, not my will, but thy will 
"'be done.' I confess it is an amazing meditation with 
"relation to the methods of Providence to see two such 
" men as Mr Charteris and Mr Aird, of whom the world is 
" not worthy, to suffer in their old age, the one so much 
" agony and pain' and the other to suffer ill-usage, poverty, 
" and reproach ; while a poor wretch who deserves not to 
** carry their shoes after them, is overset with plenty, has a 
** health of so melancholy a firmness that it does not yet 
**bend under fifty-six, and has a name, God knows, far be- 
** yond what he deserves. Alas ! have I received my good 
" things in this life, while they have received their evil 
** things } The other half of the sentence sets me a 
** trembling. I hope I have a share in their intercessions ; 
**and this is one of the things which I do every day hold 
"up before God with some comfort. For though I have 
" little reason to hope that my poor and dead prayers 
"should be heard, I have great reason to hope that their 
" help is of good use to me. Thus we see daily many new 
"proofs of the unsearchable depths of the providence of 
"God, and of his counsels which are past finding out. 
" Let me know if I can be of any use... to that good man, 

^ Mr Aird, for whom see su^ra^ p. 93, had become a Jacobite ; and lay, 
among the extreme Presbytenans, under a charge of Popish proclivities. 
[Note courteously contributed by Mr Clarke from Scott's Fasti EccUsue 
Scoticana^ Vol. n., Pt n., p. 604.] 

^ Mr Charteris was a martyr to the stone. 

B. 24 

370 Hurley uses the Memoirs [ch. ix 

'' and assure him of all the tenderness and friendship that 
^' I am capable of ; I hope you do not forget one who never 
** forgets you." 

During the summer of 1699, a curious, and rather 
inexplicable incident comes to our notice. Robert Harley 
(a son of Burnet's old friend. Sir Edward), who combined 
the, to us, very incompatible positions of Speaker of the 
House of Commons, and head of a somewhat miscellaneous 
Parliamentary opposition, perused, with or without their 
author's privity, Burnet s ** secret" Memoirs ; drawing from 
Burnet's summary of post-re volution politics material for 
the ensuing campaign against the existing administration, 
which proved unusually violent. 

Disillusioned Whigs and embittered Tories contributed 
almost equal contingents to the forces of discontent ; and all 
the passions and resentments which had accumulated at 
compound interest during the continuance of the war, and 
had been exasperated by the disbandment dispute, now 
discharged themselves with redoubled violence upon the 
Stadtholder-King and the Whig camarilla at the helm. 

*' If" (wrote Burnet to the Electress February 27, 
1 699- 1 700, three months after the commencement of the 
Session) " if I had found matter such as might interest or 
"amuse your... Highness, I had tried to make use of it, in 
" return of [your] favour [dated] 1 1 January last. But 
^* matters do not go so well, that a man can take pleasure 
" in telling them, or hearing them told. I often compare 
** the King and the Parliament to a man and wife, of whom 
" the happiest have some ill moments ; but they always 
" remain friends at last and forget the past ; the root of 
"the evil [being] that neither studies the humour of the 
''other. So the King does not sufficiently apply himself 
'* to the temper of the nation, which is open, and doth not 
** love coldness and reserve. This, joined to the frequent 
^'absences of his Majesty from England, occasions much ill- 
" humour. Residence is as necessary for a King as for a 
" Bishop ; and the Republicans make use of these journeys 
**to conclude, that the nation already dispenses with a 
*' King for half the year... .Our House of Commons has 
"been driven, by the continuance of violence from the 
'* French side, to pass severe laws against papists ; which 

1 699-1700] Anti-Papist Legislation in England 371 

" will drive them hence in a few years, if things remain as 
''they are...." 

In effect, the peace had but increased the sufferings of 
that miserable Huguenot remnant, which still, under the 
aegis of a pseudo-conversion, clung to the land of its 
nativity. Moreover the cessation of hostilities had opened 
our ports to a swarm of Jacobite exiles, many Papists, and 
some of them priests. Other priests followed in their 
wake ; and their demeanour (as Evelyn notes, and Klopp 
allows) was at times distinctly provocative. Reports be- 
came current that the Treaty of Ryswick contained a secret 
proviso, in favour of the Roman Catholic religion ; and 
these rumours derived some support from the very well 
grounded suspicion, that William, out of deference for his 
Papist allies, had reduced to a minimum the execution of 
the Recusancy Laws. An absurd legend even arose, that, 
like his uncles, he tended towards the Church of Rome. 
From such fears and such jealousies sprang the tyrannical 
Bill to which Burnet refers ; and which, besides specific 
clauses directed against Roman priests, was framed so as to 
bar from all rights of succession to real estate popish minors 
who should refuse to conform on their majority. 

The Court party in the Commons, aware that the move 
was intended to embarrass the King, and relieved by the 
Peace from the necessity of considering Vienna, turned the 
tables on the promoters by supporting the Bill. Hereupon, 
says Burnet, the original patrons recoiled ; and clogged the 
Bill with such ** severe " and '* unreasonable" provisions as 
might induce the Lords to reject or amend. But a majority 
in the Lords — including Burnet ^who on March 14 took the 
chair in the Grand Committee) and all his brethren save 
one — swallowed every clause ; fearful lest the slightest 
amendment should wreck the chances of the measure. 

** I," says Burnet, **was for this bilP, notwithstanding 
'*my principles for toleration, and against all persecution 
**for conscience* sake. I had always thought, that if any 
*' government found any sect in religion incompatible with 
"its quiet... it might, and sometimes ought to send away 
**all of that sect, with as little hardship as possible.... 
'* The dependance of those of that religion on a foreign 

^ And for subsequent yet more drastic proposals. 

24 — 2 

372 The Penal Laws in Ireland [ch. ix 

''jurisdiction, and at present on a foreign pretender to the 
** crown, put them out of the case of other subjects, who 
*' might differ from the established religion ; since there 
"seemed to be good reason to consider them as enemies 
** rather than as subjects.... This Act.. • would put those of 
*' that religion who are men of conscience upon selling their 
'* estates ; and in the course of a few years might deliver 
'*us from having any papists left among us." He only 
laments that the Act — as we are relieved to learn — proved 
a dead letter ; and longed for the Act to be amended in 
a more stringent sense. Such a policy — though defended 
by Burnet from the days of the ** Popish Plot" panic — 
is really worthy of a Procurator of the Holy Synod. The 
Popish terror was in fact becoming Burnet's obsession ; 
and, within certain limits, he showed the harshness born 
of fear. 

And if this was his attitude in the ** green tree" of 
English tolerance, what can we expect from the **dry 
** wood " of Irish alarms } We are shocked rather than 
surprised to find Burnet (who only hoped for the improve- 
ment of that country through "the total depression of 
"the Irish") subsequently applauding the disgraceful 
" penal " legislation by which Protestant ascendancy was 
nullifying the Treaty of Limerick, and sowing the wind of 
nineteenth century whirlwinds. 

Meanwhile Ireland was before the Houses upon another 
account. A recent Commission of Enquiry into the 
disposition of the Irish forfeitures had revealed enormous 
grants to the King's Dutch favourites, and his former 
mistress, Mrs Villiers ; the value, actually large, being 
grossly swollen by rumour. Opinion in England became 
strongly excited ; and, in the interest of the tax-payer, 
a Resumption Bill, marred by crass injustice to individuals, 
was rushed through the Lower House ; which then 
attempted to force the hand of a reluctant Upper Chamber, 
by " tacking " the obnoxious measure to a Bill of Supply. 

Burnet^ unlike the majority of the Peers, had from the 
first favoured the Bill. For to him it seemed merely an 
act of severity against the King ; his sympathy with whom 
was in this case largely qualified. Some of the grants (as 
he caustically observes) " had not been made on good and 

1 699-1700] The Irish forfeiture debates 373 

** reasonable consideration." In other words, we presume, 
Burnet, the loyal servant of Mary, was scandalized by the 
wealth thus heaped on her former rival. He approved 
indeed upon principle of the amendments which the Lords 
(in defiance of custom) introduced into the more objection- 
able clauses. But he argued, cogently enough, that the 
Commons had public feeling on their side, and would only 
be exasperated by resistance. He even stood up to the 
King himself, when William (who at first determined to 
fight the matter out) remonstrated in terms of asperity 
with the refractory prelate. ** I said," declares Burnet, 
** I would venture his displeasure rather than please him 
** in that, which I feared would be the ruin of his govern- 

In effect, the Commons refused to yield ; while the 
Lords stood equally firm. Passion rose to fever heat ; and 
civil conflict really seemed to impend. The crucial moment 
came ; and on the 9th of April (to quote the language of 
Dartmouth) ** London was in an uproar. Westminster was 
**so thronged that it was with great difficulty anybody 
**got into either House. The Lords had insisted and 
* * adhered ; so there could be no more conferences ; and all 
** seemed under the greatest distraction." He describes 
with singular vividness the anxious manoeuvres which 
followed ; the King s reluctant surrender ; and the awful 
moments of tension which ensued, when the ministerial 
Lords, their blood well up, ignored the signal for capitula- 
tion. But the deadlock which threatened a tragedy came 
to a farcical conclusion. Tenison, on positive commands 
from the King, rose and left the House, ** beckoning" after 
him sufficient of his suffi^gans to ensure a majority for the 
Bill. The situation was thus saved in the very nick of time. 

Throughout the crisis, Burnet had been keenly excited ; 
and at one moment, his rude interruption of a brother Peer 
had nearly landed him in the Tower. His relief at the 
issue became, however, more dubious when he realised the 
flagrant injustice of the clauses he had helped to condone ; 
and he firmly resolved never again to concur in a ** tack on 
'* a Money Bill." 

Meanwhile the distracted Session had not passed without 
personal embarrassment to himself. At the beginning of 

374 Another attack on Burnet [ch. ix 

the forfeiture debates in the Lower House, the expenses 
of the young Duke s household came under discussion. 
The pretext had brought Burnet's enemies at once to their 
feet ; the incident of the Pastoral Letter had been recalled, 
and a motion had been proposed for the removal of so 
improper a preceptor from the person of the future King. 
The House, eager for sport, had risen to the bait ; and on 
December 13, with a disrespectful allusion to his Northern 
origin, the motion had been actually made. His friends 
had urged his services to the *' Protestant religion and 
** English liberty" ; had specifically adduced the History of 
the Reformation ; and had touched on the impolicy of 
exasperating Scotch opinion, already infuriated by news 
of the Darien disaster. Burnet s enemies, however, had 
forced a ** snap " division ; only to be beaten by 173 to 133 
votes. The Bishop, it is clear, had a real hold on the 
House ; but the size of the majority is otherwise explained. 
Marlborough, who, as Macaulay neatly observes, had himself 
a ** past " which would not bear inspection, feared a Whig 
retort on himself. He had therefore "whipped up" the 
presumably languid sympathies of the Princess Annes 
household ; and had thus established a fresh claim on the 
gratitude of the warm-hearted preceptor. 

The immediate result of the Session was the disgrace 
of the Lord Keeper Somers. He had become, partly on 
account of the strange piracy episode, the magnet of 
opposition hostility ; and William, who thought him supine 
in the forfeiture debates, avenged himself by throwing 
him to the lions. Some anticipated a similar fate for 
Burnet. In any case, wrote a Tory, the Oxford colleges 
under the See of Winchester (where a vacancy seems to 
have been expected) need not fear Burnet's visitation. 

The sinister prominence given to the Villiers' connec- 
tion in the course of the forfeiture debates may explain 
the vehemence of Burnet's attitude towards an episode 
which immediately followed. Early in May, a clergyman 
had been recommended to the Ecclesiastical Commissioners 
(with the sanction, we presume, of the King) whose charac- 
ter would not bear inspection. On the 23rd of the same 
month the Archbishop communicated to the Board a 
letter from one of the Secretaries of State. Brother to 

1 699- 1 700] Burnet as Ecclesiastical Commissioner 375 

Elizabeth Villiers, Lord Jersey was in politics a Tory ; and 
his somewhat curt missive intimated the Kings pleasure 
that a prebend should be conferred on Jersey's own chaplain. 
This candidate seems to have been unexceptionable ; but 
the appointment expressly contravened the terms of the 
Commission, which specifically forbade the Secretaries to 
approach the King, without the previous sanction of the 
Commission. Patrick and Sharp, however, opined that if 
the King chose to override his own instructions, the Com- 
mission could only acquiesce. Bishop Moore of Norwich, 
a fresh member of the Commission, urged, on the other 
hand, the evils of such interference, and thought these 
should be represented to the King. Even should his 
Majesty insist on the appointment of Jersey's chaplain, the 
Commission must demur to the previous and objectionable 
appointment. Burnet took yet stronger ground ; on May 
25 he wrote to the Archbishop from Salisbury in the 
following indignant strain : 

** May it please your Grace : 

" I hope your Grace looks on this letter as the 
** superseding our commission, and that accordingly you 
** will carry it to the King and deliver it up ; for I am sure 
**this destroys the effect of it. I wish your Grace had 
** maintained your ground upon the first attack. But now it is 
'* too late to struggle, if this person is not quite laid aside 
'* and an effectual stop put to all things of this kind for the 
** future. We are under much obloquy already ; I am sure 
**we will become justly so if we are only to screen the 
** recommendations of a lewd Court. Howsoever, for my 
'*own part, I beg leave to be left out, if your Grace thinks 
'* fit to continue the Commission on such terms. I thought to 
** have writ to your Grace on other subjects, but I will mix 
" nothing with this, that I may leave your Grace with full 
** freedom to shew it, or make what use of it you please. I 
**am with all duty and respect" [etc.]. 

On the very same day he signed at Salisbury another 
paper, which related to an ecclesiastical problem rapidly 
becoming acute. 

The eleven years' intermission of Convocation had been 
bitterly resented by the " rigid " majority among the clergy. 

376 His Controversy with Atterbury [ch. ix 

which was now occasionally designated as " High Church"; 
and which saw the Presbyterian Assembly in Scotland 
voiced by its General Assembly, while the English Church 
found its official spokesmen in the Spiritual Peers, whose 
views were hardly representative. Under such circumstances, 
this majority had rapidly declined from the Erastian pro- 
fessions, which in truth cohere awkwardly enough with 
extreme ecclesiasticism. From 1697 onwards, it had argued 
for an independent right of holding synods, inherent in the 
Church ; and in the animated controversy which ensued, 
Burnet had become himself involved. His answer to the 
first and anonymous edition of Kxxtxhyxrf^ Rights... of an 
English Convocation was, as we hinted above, dated from 
Salisbury, May 25, 1700; and contains an unequivocal 
reassertion of Burnet's own Erastianism. In every State 
there can exist but one supreme Executive, and one supreme 
Legislature. Parliament, and " the Magistrate " must rule ; 
all other powers are subordinate. Obedience to the Civil 
Power is thus incumbent on all ; until its command encroach 
on '* the law of God " — i.e, on the moral law, and the 
universal precepts of the Gospel. In matters purely 
ecclesiastical the clergy should be consulted \ their consent 
is not essential. 

Such views, so pointedly expressed, did not enhance his 
popularity among the inferior clergy. 

Yet concerned as was Burnet in administrative and 
ecclesiastical problems, he was none the less keenly alive 
to the wider issues of professional activity ; none the less 
interested in the new elements which religious zeal, here 
and abroad, was finding for its energies. The "very 
** pathetic discourse" which Burnet on March 25, 1700 
preached "before the Lord Mayor" and a great congrega- 
tion at St Mary-le-Bow "to the Societies for the Reforma- 
" tion of Manners," introduces us to this aspect of his career. 

From about 1678 onwards there had arisen in England 
(probably as an offshoot from the German " Pietistic " 
movement) a number of " Religious Societies." These 
were in a measure akin to the pious fraternities of the 
Middle Ages — to the "guilds" of modern ecclesiastical 
organization. They aimed at deepening the devotion of 
their members, no less than at their association in external 

1678-1700] The Religious Societies 377 

good works ; and furnished the model of the original 
" Methodist " Society of some forty years later. Under 
James 1 1 the revival of Protestant zeal lent them impetus ; 
but they were not confined to one school of Protestant 
thought. ** Things of that kind," says Burnet, *'had been 
** formerly practised only among the puritans and dis- 
** senters ; but these were of the Church, and came to their 
*' ministers to be assisted with forms of prayer and other 
"directions.... After the revolution, these societies grew 
**more numerous... they got such collections to be made as 
'* maintained many clergymen to read prayers at so many 
** places, and at so many different hours, that devout persons 
" might have that comfort at every hour of the day ; there 
** were constant sacraments every Lord s day in many 
** churches ; there were both greater numbers and greater 
" appearances of devotion at prayers and sacraments, than 
*' had been observed in the memory of man." 

The movement, which he strongly approved, had several 
important offshoots. From about 1691 we trace the rise of 
those societies for the Reformation of Manners ^or, as we 
should say, Vigilance Societies), to which Burnet s sermon 
was addressed. These promoted a stricter execution of 
the laws against vice and immorality ; and though they had 
been encouraged by Queen Mary, and are said to have had 
some effect in enforcing public decency, the methods they 
pursued aroused much adverse comment. Some lawyers 
censured their interference as irregular and officious ; and 
many parsons deprecated co-operation with dissent. Burnet's 
sermon, however (mentioned above), does not treat of legal 
interference ; and dwells rather, in sensible and animating 
fashion, on the value of Friendly Reproof. 

Another outcome of the more strictly religious move- 
ment was the Society for Promoting Christian Knowledge. 
Established in 1698-9 as a central link between the local 
Societies, it even managed to keep in touch with Conti- 
nental Pietism. Its own direct mission was the religious 
education of the English masses, then almost incredibly 
ignorant ; and the " Propagation " of Christianity ** in the 
** Plantations." Its double aim appealed strongly to Burnet, 
who had always displayed the educational energy even thert 
distinctive of the Scot, and who shared the anxiety of his 

378 Foreign Religious Movements [ch. ix 

adored Queen Mary for the ecclesiastical welfare of the 
Colonies ; in June 1 700 he joined the Society, as its third 
episcopal member. When moreover, in 1 70 1 an offshoot of 
the Society specially devoted itself to the *' Propagation of 
" the Gospel " the departure evoked in Burnet a sympathy, 
which was fully shared by Leibnitz. The latter hastened 
to urge on Burnet his own favourite scheme for the evan- 
gelization of China, in emulation of Jesuit energy. Burnet 
was not unmoved ; for when on February 1 8, 1 703-4 he 
preached to the new organization an eloquent and manly 
sermon, his animadversions on the missionary apathy of 
the English Church, and the spiritual needs of the de- 
pendencies, introduce an interesting sketch of the Jesuit 
propaganda, its characteristic virtues and defects. 

Nor was Burnet's interest in religious evangelization and 
religious revival confined to his own communion. The 
Quaker schism in America (which occasioned the secession 
of his old friend Keith to the English Church) attracted 
his attention. He was by no means indifferent to the 
controversy concerning Justification which distracted the 
Independent Churches. To German Pietism he refers in 
sympathetic terms ; the progress of Molinism in Italy had 
for him a perennial fascination ; and he followed with keen 
appreciation the dispute as to Quietism (then raging between 
Bossuet and F^nelon), to which Leibnitz had drawn his notice. 
A fear of incurring the dreaded charge of mysticism keeps 
his language guarded ; but his sympathies were evidently 
with F^nelon. 

His interest in all religious phenomena was probably 
quickened by an event which took place during the summer 
of 1700. On March 11, White Kennett, dining with the 
Bishop, found it ** no great secret in his own family" that 
he contemplated, in the fifty-seventh year of his age, and 
the second of his widowhood, a third marriage. 

For such a step, the reasons were admittedly cogent. 
He had no near connection, who could with propriety pre- 
side over his establishment ** I had," he says himself, 
**five children, the eldest... but ten years old when his 
** mother died ; and being now ** (as Gloucester's preceptor) 
**to live in a Court,... it seemed necessary to provide a 
"mistress to my family, and a mother to my children." 

I700] The Tofts Scandal 379 

It is, in fact, probable that the intermittent domestic 
administration of a busy impulsive man had not conduced 
to the good order of the Episcopal household. A position 
of undefined responsibility in the Palace seems to have been 
held by a Scotch couple named Tofts ; concerning whom Mr 
Clarke observes, that a schoolmaster with this patronymic 
had left Saltoun when Burnet resigned the charge. They 
had a daughter named Katherine ; beautiful, fascinating, 
and dowered with a magnificent voice. It is possible that 
the kindly employer had extended to the wayward genius a 
rather ill-judged patronage ; and when, somewhere about 
1700 she left the Palace (under circumstances which do 
not seem to have reflected credit on the discipline of the 
establishment she quitted) to become the most brilliant of con- 
temporary English opera-singers the Tory-Jacobite gutter- 
press found a theme for scandalous variations. To these we 
must refer later on. Here we shall only make the incidental 
remark that the virulence of Jacobite libel upon Burnet 
almost exceeds belief. Hearne (himself a highly reputable 
man) does not shrink from insinuating that Burnet, in the 
days of his episcopate, was capable of insulting propositions 
to a woman of rank and character ; and that his conduct on 
first taking orders (when he seems in reality to have lived 
the life of an ascetic), might justly have called down the 
curses denounced on the sons of Eli, and the inhabitants of 
the Cities of the Plain. 

To the Tofts scandal Burnet, as is natural, never refers. 
He suggests, in fact, that the domestic motives for his 
remarriage might not have prevailed with him **if I had 
** not known one of the most extraordinary persons that 
**has lived in this age." 

Elizabeth Berkeley, born Blake, was eighteen years 
younger than the Bishop. Married at the age of 17 to a 
man her intellectual inferior, and fearing, on the accession 
of James II, pressure from his papist relations, she had 
persuaded him to travel ; and at the Hague had become 
acquainted with the Burnets. The Revolution had brought 
the Berkeleys home ; and when, four years later, Mrs 
Berkeley had been left a childless widow, she had dedicated 
her time and wealth to offices of friendship and charity. 
She it was whom Mary Burnet had so pathetically sug- 
gested as a step-mother for her children. 

380 Bumefs Third Marriage [ch. ix 

Mrs Berkeley, however, had no wish to remarry. In a 
curious ** Reflection " on the subject, extant in manuscript, 
she says : " My temper and genius never affected a married 
** state, which was first an act of obedience to my parents, 
** and now an act rather of my will and understanding than 
** of passion or inclination. I considered the circumstances 
'* of the person I chose made it, as far as I could judge, 
** best for him to marry ; with respect to the age of his 
" children, the place he then held in the Court ; which for 
**one of his free and generous conversation and good 
** nature, free from cunning or design and so easily imposed 
**on by those who had, made a sincere and faithful friend 
" of great advantage ; and though I wanted all other quali- 
" fications I thought myself capable of sincerity, and of 
" preventing sometimes too hasty impressions of others, or 
** errors of inconsideration, which ill-designing men might 
** (unwarily) engage him in. Also I hoped, I might have 
*' more power to do good in a more public post ; so if I 
" have descended to a lower place, as a second marriage in 
** its own nature ever appeared to me to be... it was out of a 
'* too great desire to serve my brethren." 

The marriage seems to have taken place in May or June 
1 700. Men remarked that Mrs Elizabeth Burnet, like her 
predecessors, was not ill-dowered ; her income being esti- 
mated at from ;^6oo to ;^8oo a year. The Bishop, however, 
with his usual disinterestedness, left this sum at her disposal ; 
and after paying into the episcopal coffers the equivalent of 
her personal expense, that the Bishop's power to do good 
might not be straitened by his remarriage, she devoted 
the remainder (some four-fifths of the whole) to acts of 

The experiment seems to have proved eminently suc- 
cessful ; for the new Mrs Burnet was no less amiable 
than she was intelligent, ardent, and devout. The two 
daughters she bore to her second husband died in infancy ; 
and her motherly affection settled on the offspring of her 
predecessor. ** Both I and my children," says Burnet, 
" were happy in her beyond expression ; for she was one 
**of the strictest Christians, and.. .most heavenly minded 
** persons I have ever known. Her Method of Devotion,'' 
he adds, touchingly, ** gives her true character ; she prac- 
**tised it all as well as she wrote it." On this work. 

1700] Character of Elizabeth Burnet 381 

Overton, though prejudiced against her husband's school, 
delivers himself in the language of eulogy. It is, he con- 
siders, one of the few fine devotional works which the age 

Yet more interesting are the lady's fragmentary memo- 
randa preserved in the Bodleian Library. They are 
mainly religious; for Mrs Burnet was of those for whom 
religion lends to life its only real zest. There was in her the 
makings of a mystic devotee. With great sweetness and 
modesty she touches on the writings of the F6nelon school. 
'* I remember " (she says) " when very young, so soon 
'*as I began to think of religious matters, some of these 
*' thoughts did as [it] were spring up in my mind, I knew 
** not how ; for I found them not then in books ; but my mind 
** found rest and quiet in them... and when I first met with 
" them from men of piety and learning, my heart was glad, 
** ...and I feel as it were their certainty." Actually, how- 
ever, a strong intellectual bias, sound common sense, and 
a sedate English environment, kept her raptures within 
bounds. Her memoranda, together with very fervent 
piety, evince breadth of judgment, and some mental origi- 
nality ; while her study of the Dutch enthusiast, Madame 
Bourignon, is a model of discriminating analysis. 

But if her influence fanned in her husband the flame of 
an exalted devotion, it had also a more mundane result. For 
Elizabeth Burnet, on religious motives, was a staunch 
political partizan. To her, the Revolution spelt salvation 
from the toils of Rome ; of which, despite wide tolerance, 
and friendship for individual Romanists, she entertained a 
profound dread. In the preface to the posthumous edition 
of her Method (a preface for which her husband admits 
ultimate responsibility), her political zeal is described as 
the one thing in her "that looked like excess." Patriotic 
apprehension " preyed " on her spirits ; and sometimes even 
** set too great an edge on them." No mollification of her 
husband's increasing partizanship could be expected from 

Nor was her party fervour without historical import- 
ance. In the Duke of Gloucester's household she came 
into contact with Lady Marlborough ; and fell, as the 
Princess Anne had herself fallen, under the strange spell 

382 Death of the Duke of Gloucester [ch. ix 

which surrounded that imperious and very mundane beauty ; 
whose religious orthodoxy, except as regards hatred to 
Rome, was more than open to question. The attraction 
seems to have been mutual. If Mrs Burnet s letters to 
Sarah are couched in fervent terms, the great lady, on her 
part, condescended to give, for her new friend's satisfaction, 
a self-exculpatory account of the strife between the royal 
sisters ; of which the insinuations obviously affected the 
Bishop s later narrative. And to the influence of Mrs Burnet 
we may with likelihood ascribe the Whig vehemence by 
which Lady Marlborough so seriously jeopardized her 
husband s later career. 

Brief however was to prove the official intercourse 
between the ladies ; for within two months, the preceptorship 
suddenly determined. On the occasion of his eleventh 
birthday (July 24, 1700) the young Prince, after the manner 
of little boys, ate too freely of the dainties provided. 
Fever supervened ; doctors crowded in ; the poor child 
was ** bled, cupped, and blistered " out of an always frail 
existence ; to be buried with all the gloomy solemnities of 
a great State Pageant. 

For his death spelt a national calamity. The Kings 
health was visibly declining ; the Princess, if but in her 
thirty-fourth year, had never boasted a robust, or even 
sound constitution ; and though she had, the preceding 
spring, given birth to a still-born child, and cherished, it 
was known, subsequent abortive expectations, the hope 
that she would leave issue was thenceforth practically 
abandoned. James II drew near his end; the Electress 
was advanced in years ; and the Stuart claimant, Papist in 
religion, a foreigner by breeding if not by birth, practically 
confronted the Lutheran ruler of a growing German 
principality, who by no means relished his proposed 
responsibilities. As late as September 1700 — nearly two 
months after Gloucester's death — William III vainly sought 
for some sign of Hanoverian acquiescence in the proposed 
Hanoverian settlement. The Electoral House, in fact, was 
but forced from its attitude of reserve by the critical state 
of another dynastic problem. 

The King of Spain was at length actually dying. 
Louis XIV (intent, all renunciations notwithstanding, on 

1698-1700] The Partition Treaties 383 

the great inheritance) had driven, by his secret Treaties 
with William, a wedge into the Concert of Europe. The 
first Treaty, mainly favourable to athird claimant, had been 
frustrated in February 1 699 by his premature death ; and in 
May following the two contracting parties had demanded 
the Emperor's concurrence in a second Treaty, by which 
Spain, the Indies and the Netherlands should have fallen 
to the cadet of Austria; the Italian Provinces to France 
and her nominees. The wrath of Vienna, treacherously 
fomented by France, focussed itself upon the '* honest 
"broker," who, in the interests of the Sea- Powers, had 
not only bargained away the rights of a former ally, but 
had assigned to him the Provinces he least coveted. Louis, 
however, with diplomatic parade, had declined the advances 
of Austria; and had ostentatiously published (May 1700) 
the terms of the Partition Treaty, which had become known 
in England early in the month of June. 

The English nation not unnaturally started at finding 
itself concerned, without its own knowledge, in so drastic 
a rearrangement of the map of Europe ; with the almost 
certain responsibility of paying the eventual bill. The 
good faith of France was strongly, and with reason, suspect ; 
while the extension of direct French influence over Italy 
was dreaded by the powerful commercial interests involved 
in the trade with the Levant. 

What Burnet himself thought of these Treaties cannot 
be certainly known ; for the language of his History is 
evasive. The subject certainly absorbed him ; he obtained 
information on the subject from all whom he thought could 
throw light, including William himself, who proved unusually 
loquacious. Burnet even, as he tells us, succeeded in getting 
a sight of the parchment of the second Treaty. Probably 
he ranked with those who feared the transformation 
of the Mediterranean into " a French lake " ; and who 
only hoped the King of Spain might survive till England, 
recovered from her exhaustion, might be mistress of the 
European situation. The King of Spain, however, neither 
fulfilled these aspirations nor acquiesced in the dismember- 
ing of his Empire. His own sympathies were Austrian ; 
but Vienna proved weak and vacillating. Meanwhile 
the threats of France and her creatures were ostentatiously 

384 Death of the King of Spain [ch. ix 

backed by the silent rhetoric of French armies, massed on 
the Pyrenean frontier ; and when, on November i, the King 
of Spain died, it was found he had devised the whole of his 
vast dominions — Spain and the Indies, — ^the Netherlands 
and the Italian provinces, — to a grandson of the French 
King. Louis for but a week retained the mask of hesitation ; 
and the Spanish Empire, without a blow, submitted to the 
Due d'Anjou. 

Europe shuddered at the shock ; and William, out- 
manoeuvred, and driven to bay, turned with his usual 
stubborn resolution " to see what could be done." In 
silence the indomitable Dutchman, ready as ever to " die 
** in the last ditch," set himself patiently to work to reweave 
the European coalition. But he assumed the veil of 
indifference ; for in procrastination lay his only chance. 

The existing outlook seemed hopeless. William had at 
last learned that the English must be led, not driven, nor 
conducted blindfold ; that he must work through public 
opinion and not in its despite. And yet all parties were at 
the moment averse from war ; preferring even the elevation 
of a Bourbon cadet, to the terms of the Partition Treaty. 
Moreover the existing Whig Ministry, unpopular in the 
country, could not even command a majority in the 
House of Commons. The King, to gain time, prorogued 
Parliament till the spring ; and meanwhile entered into 
negotiation with the heads of the Tory majority. Its 
leaders were admitted to the Privy Council, and various 
offices ; and their terms included, besides a dissolution of 
Parliament, the session of Convocation which the High 
Church clergy desired. Their demand was granted, and 
writs issued simultaneously for the two elections. 

** And now," writes Burnet in his History, '* I am come 
"to the end of this century, in which there was a black 
** appearance of a new and dismal scene; France was... in 
"possession of a great empire\.. while we in England, who 
*• were to protect... the rest, were by... factions... running into 
** a feeble and disjointed state. . .[and were] become very cor- 
** rupt in all respects... the nation was falling under a general 
*' ...dislike of the Kings person and government ; and the 

* This, though not absolutely true in theory, represents the practical issue. 
See Klopp, Fcul des Houses Stuart, ix. 42, 48, 172-5, 378, 444. 

1700-1] Situation at the end of 1700 385 

* King, on his part, seemed... weary of us and our affairs ; 

* and... falling... into a lethargy of mind\ We were... 

* become already more than half a commonwealth ; since 

* the government was plainly in the House of Commons, 
*who must sit once a year... [and] the Act for triennial 
' parliaments kept up a standing faction in every county and 

* town in England. But though we were falling insensibly 
'into a democracy, we had not learned the [necessary] 

* virtues... luxury, vanity, and ambition increased daily, and 
'our animosities were come to a great height. ... Few 
'among us seemed to have a right notion of the love of 
'their country ;...the House of Commons, how much soever 
' its power was advanced, yet was much sunk in its credit... 
'the balance lay chiefly in the House of Lords, who had 
' no natural strength to resist the Commons." 

In reading these gloomy vaticinations, we have to 
remember the possibility that in their present form they 
date from some years later ; when Burnet inclined to 
regard with a jaundiced eye all that bore the Tory stamp. 
For the result of the elections, as Burnet informs us, was 
a substantial Tory majority, both in the House of Commons 
and in Convocation ; though it is clear from other reports 
that a very large number of members of Parliament could 
not be specifically ranked under the banner of either party. 

Ere Parliament could meet however, the situation was 
modified in two important particulars. 

For, in the first place, the urgency of the Continental 
crisis, and the necessity of keeping England, at least, from 
the hands of a dependent of France', was sapping the 
reluctance of the Hanoverian House. William, who saw 
the full importance of settling the English succession, 
renewed his efforts ; until the instances of Leibnitz and 
others had wrung from the Electress a letter which, with 
a little straining of its terms, might be interpreted into a 
promise to be guided by William in the matter. 

And, in the second place, about a month after Christmas, 
French troops suddenly occupied the fortresses of the 

^ For the curious intrigues by which William, in order to divert suspicions 
of his designs, was fostering this belief, see Klopp, ix. 98-101, 109-19, 137. 

' Which had fomented the opposition to the recognition of the Ninth 

B. 25 

386 The Partition Treaty Debates [ch. ix 

Spanish Netherlands; the ** Barrier" of the United Pro- 
vinces, the key to the English Channel. 

Such was the situation when, on February lo, the King 
met his Parliament. In his speech he recommended the 
further settlement of the Succession, necessitated by the 
death of the child- Duke ; and expressed a hope that 
Parliament would seriously consider the Continental crisis. 

The latter question was the first which came under 
debate. The Tory party showed itself strongly biassed 
against war; on which Burnet ill-naturedly observes, that 
French gold was unusually current in London during the 
winter of 1 700-1. But while the use of such means was in 
accordance with French practice, the factor may, in this 
instance, be dismissed as inconsiderable. Foreign relations 
had less interest for the squires and the clergy, to whom 
the Tory leaders mainly appealed, than they had for the 
mercantile classes ; who feared, and with justice, that Louis 
aimed at monopolizing, for the merchants of France, the 
lucrative trade of Spanish South America — the so-called 
" South Sea " trade. Yet on the other hand war taxation 
always pressed, with exceptional severity, on the landed and 
clerical interests. The trend of events, however, forced from 
the Lower House a handsome naval vote ; and a request 
that the King would contract alliances, calculated to pre- 
serve England, Holland, and the general peace of Europe. 
The Upper House called for papers relative to recent 
Treaties ; and elicited the surprising intelligence that not 
a single document was producible concerning the Partition 
Treaties, which had never been discussed in Council. The 
wrath of the House flamed out against the Ministers 
concerned, however formally, in these clandestine and 
unpopular negotiations. But the Tory majority, with 
a cynical partiality which Burnet justly reprobates, concen- 
trated its resentment on Lord Portland, and the Whig 
grandees ; ignoring the complicity of Lord Jersey and 
Marlborough who ranked more or less as Tories. The 
impeachment of Portland and the Whig Lords became 
abortive, in consequence of a disagreement between the 
two Houses; but in the interval "I," says Burnet, **bore 
** some share in those debates, perhaps more than became... 
" my station and other circumstances." Holding as he did, 

1701] The Act of Settlement 387 

however, that " by our constitution all foreign negotiations 
'*[are] trusted entirely in the Crown" he was "convinced 
*' of the innocence of the Lords " and " thought the govern- 
" ment itself was struck at " by these invidious proceedings. 
His own speeches were marked by extreme asperity, and 
he treated his brother Bishops with special incivility. 

The episode left its mark on the eventual revision of his 
History. Indignant at the treatment meted out to Portland, 
for whom ever since the Revolution he had entertained 
a hearty dislike S he subsequently deleted from his Memoirs 
a number of disparaging comments on the conduct of the 
Dutch favourite. 

Meanwhile the Succession Question had been rapidly 
settled. A few days after the meeting of Parliament Leibnitz 
had written an anxious letter to Burnet, which urged the 
merits of the Electoral House, and the immediate necessity 
for counteracting the influence of France. Such arguments 
were indeed cogent ; and since the Tories at this time, 
despite Burnet s ill-natured insinuations to the contrary, were 
almost free from Jacobitical leaven, and more cordial 
adherents than the Whig^ of the Hanoverian House, the 
issue could not be doubtful. During the debates in the 
Upper House Burnet himself showed *'a very particular 
" zeal " ; and on June 12 an Act settling the Crown (though 
with some invidious conditions) on the Electress Sophia 
and her descendants was presented to the King by Speaker 
Harley and received the Royal Assent. A gracious letter 
from the Electress acknowledged Burnet's efforts. 

Burnet's account of these debates, as we have already 
remarked, is not very candid ; since he endeavours, perhaps 
under the influence of subsequent prepossessions, to rob 
the Tories of their due. He shows more impartiality in 
the frank praise he lavishes upon a Bill which was levelled 
against the gross abuses then attendant on Parliamentary 
privilege ; though the Bill seems to have had its rise in 
a private Tory interest. 

The concurrent ecclesiastical session did not edify the 
world. In truth the spirit of Atterbury — a spirit fearless, 
factious and imperiously litigious — animated the Lower 
House. The proceedings commenced with severe reflec- 

^ Cf. Supp. Hist Own Time^ pp. 196-7 and supra ^, 222, with supra^ p. 26a 

25 — 2 

388 Attack on Burnefs Exposition [ch. ix 

tions on the Bishops, and degenerated into unseemly 
wranglings between the Houses, in which the Lower 
House was invariably the real aggressor. As Burnet 
remarks — and his language will find an echo in the mind of 
the average layman, religious or irreligious — it is "strange to 
"see men who... assert... the divine right of episcopacy," 
so little submissive to that order. At last matters reached 
a deadlock ; communication between the Houses ceased. 
" Hereupon," says Burnet, ** [the majority in the Lower 
'* House] being highly incensed against me, censured my 
" Exposition of the Articles'' ; as favouring "a diversity of 
** opinions which the Articles were framed to avoid" ; as 
containing matter inconsistent with the doctrines of the 
Church, dangerous in consequence, and derogatory to the 
honour of the Reformation. Burnet begged that the Lower 
House might be compelled to formulate these charges ; 
but the deadlock continued. The King however refused 
to gratify the majority by dissolving the Ecclesiastical 

Bitterly enough wrote Burnet to his friend Van 
Limborch. " I have read [your] life of Episcopius* with 
**much pleasure. What [evil] times that great man fell 
" upon ! [His adversaries'] were divines indeed ! The 
" breed seems unchangeable. When they have a majority 
"they extol to the skies the powers of Churches and 
" Synods; sed mutatis temporibus, mutantur et illi. Among 
"us there rages almost the same exasperation. Our 
"Churchmen, hitherto the least violent section of the 
" Reformed [Churches] seem to set before them the example 
"of the others. Whither all this will tend, God knows. 
" They eye the Toleration askance, as a certain danger to 
" the Church, and rage against all who uphold it, as public 
"enemies. Nor do the overwhelming dangers under 
"which we are all but crushed, commend to them milder 
" counsels. We are already in great straits ; but I will not 
" prophesy evil, though 1 dare not prophesy good." — 

" Thus " (says Burnet in his History) " ended [a] session 
*'of Parliament and Convocation which had the worst 
" aspect of any.. .during this reign." 

* The then recently published Latin translation of the original Dutch 

« At the Synod of Dort. 

i/oi] The JVar Fever Rises 389 

As we have already suggested however the animus of 
a later date may tinge this gloomy retrospect. A more 
cheerful spirit certainly transpires in a contemporary letter 
to Leibnitz, dated June 30, and despatched with the 
embassy which carried over the Act of Settlement "I am 
'* glad," writes Burnet, *' that [my E^osition] is like to be 
**of some use in order to the softening the sharpness that 
*' is among your Divines, particularly in the matter of 
** Predestination. The Court of Brunswick is now so 
** entirely united to ours upon the justice which the King 
** and Parliament have done in declaring the right of 
*' Succession, that I hope we shall agree in this, as well as 
"in everything else, to promote an agreement among all 
"that are enemies to Popery, in order to the defending 
" ourselves against the common enemy. The present state 
" of affairs opens to us a great crisis ; for either the King of 
" France will arrive at the much longed for Universal 
" Monarchy ; or by grasping at too much, as Spain did 
"above an age ago, he may fall under a feebleness like 
" that to which we see Spain now reduced.... Our Parliament 
"here has ended much better than was expected. The 
" practices of the French were as visible here as in many 
"other Courts, and have been so skilfully managed that 
" we have been much embroiled by them ; yet the genius 
" of the nation worked so strongly towards a war, that it 
'* could not be resisted...." 

These last words exactly reflect the situation. For the 
nation in general, and the more or less independent vote in 
the Commons, though slow to grasp the seriousness of the 
Continental crisis, had gradually taken fire. The " Kent," 
" Legion " and " Warwick " petitions had forced the hand 
of Harley and his followers ; and the Lower House, at 
the close of the Session, had emitted positively war- 
like addresses. Yet the characteristically " War " party 
suspected this enforced bellicosity and feared indirect 
manoeuvres; the Austrian successes in Italy, where hostilities 
had already commenced, increased the tension of public 
feeling; and petitions for the dissolution of the too-lethargic 
Parliament poured in from the provinces. 

William had obtained his " mandate " ; and on §^~ 
1 70 1, the Second Grand Alliance, through which Eng- 
land, the States and the Emperor bound themselves 

390 The Second Grand Alliance [ch. ix 

to secure, by pacific or warlike means, the satisfaction of 
the Austrian House, and the security of England and 
the United Provinces, in respect of both territory and 
trade, was silently signed at the Hague. Marlborough 
represented England ; for William, under a presentiment 
of his own doom, aimed at associating with himself, in 
each stage of the great work, the soldier-diplomatist whose 
genius he at length realised, and whose wife's ascendancy 
over the Princess Anne marked him out as the coming 

Ere France learned the fact, Louis (whose arrogance, 
designed to cow the Powers, had but goaded them into 
community of action) consummated his own imprudence. 
On -^ September James H (of whom, in this connection 
Burnet writes with charity and candour) died at St Germain ; 
when Louis, in defiance of his pledges at Ryswick, but 
perhaps relying on the family feeling of Princess Anne, 
acknowledged the thirteen-year-old "Pretender" as King 
of England. A storm of indignation swept across the 
country so cavalierly assigned to the ruler it had just 
repudiated; the Universal Monarch (men cried) parcelled 
out, in advance, his provinces. Encouraged by fresh 
petitions William now dissolved and Louis once more un- 
consciously seconded his efforts by drastic proclamations 
directed against English trade. The natural result followed ; 
and the House of Commons which confronted William, when 

o^ ^^TTo h^ opened the Session with an impressive appeal for 
unity, proved (though rather Tory than Whig) enthusiastic 
for the war. 

The gage of Louis was now flung back in his face. A 
Tory leader moved that the maintenance of the Protestant 
Succession should be made an Article of the Grand Alliance. 
An Oath abjuring the Pretender was imposed on all officials ; 
and Atterbury bitterly complained that in the course of 
debate " my good lord of Sarum *' represented this oath to 
be as necessary for the support of the existing government, 
as was any article of religion for the preservation of the 
Christian Faith. 

The first act of the great European drama had reached 
its culmination ; but its protagonist was borne from the 
scene in the moment of triumph. On February 21 
an accidental fall gave the final shock to a constitution 

1701-2] Death of IVilliam III 39 1 J 

already exhausted ; an unlucky chill supervened. On the 
4th of March William had a violent shivering fit which 
Burnet, who stood near him, thought very ominous ; and by 
the morning of Saturday the 7th he was evidently sinking 
fast. Tenison and Burnet were admitted to the dying man 
and remained with him to the last He intimated, though 
with difficulty, a wish to receive the Eucharist, which was * 
administered about five o'clock on the morning of Sunday 
the 8th. After the final parting with Benthinck, which \ 
Macaulay so pathetically describes, the agony began ; and, \ 
at eight o'clock, with the last words of the prayer commen- \ 
datory, he passed quietly away. Twined round his arm like \ 
the relic of a saint was a strand of his wife's hair ; from his ) 
neck, like a talisman, depended her ring. -~ " "^ 

The character of the Stadtholder-King, with which Burnet 
concludes his reign, is, like most of the characters contained 
in the published version of his History, a catalogue rather 
than a portrait. It is, however, conspicuously just ; and 
shows remarkable acumen. For Burnet, who respected 
rather than loved the husband of Queen Mary, was not 
here the sport of prepossessions which so often obscured 
his judgment On one point, which had a good deal 
exercised his conscience, his language proved unhappy. 
An unwonted delicacy— due perhaps to the memory of 
Mary — forbade him to blaze abroad her husband's infidelity; 
and yet, as he told Lord Dartmouth, some things were too 
notorious to be ignored. In the History Mrs Villiers is 
not mentioned ; but a cautious reference to *' secret" vices 
— (signifying, as the original context shows, that William 
had eschewed the open profligacy of his uncles) — assumed a 
sinister aspect in the light of Jacobite slanders. 

For the rest, says Burnet, ** after all the abatements 
** that may be allowed... he ought still to be reckoned among 
'* the greatest princes that. ..history. . .can afford." His death, 
so far as his own person was concerned, fell out, as Burnet 
thought, in a good time for his fame ; since the success or 
failure of the great League he had engineered must equally 
redound to his credit As regards the public, however, the 
verdict is necessarily different "His death would have 
** been a great stroke at any time ; but in our circumstances 
" was a dreadful one." 



Le Roi est Mort ; Vive la Reine ! 

" As soon " (sneers Dartmouth) ** as the breath was out 
"of King William (by which all expectations from him 
** were at an end) the Bishop of Salisbury drove hard [from 
" Kensington] to bring the first tidings to St James's ; where 
** he prostrated himself at the new Queen's feet, full of joy 
"and duty ; but obtained no advantage over the-. .Lord of 
**the Bedchamber... whose... office it was; besides being 
" universally laughed at for his officiousness." 

Burnet was quite the man to appreciate so dramatic an 
errand ; while his former place in the new Queen's house- 
hold rendered it appropriate, and even decent, that he should 
hasten to pay his respects. Actually, however, we may 
regard him as the representative of the Archbishop, whose 
health, less robust than his own, may have suffered from so 
prolonged a strain. 

Parliament met the same afternoon ; and meanwhile the 
Privy Council waited on the new Sovereign. Burnet reports 
the agreeable impression produced by a charm of voice and 
enunciation, in which Queen Anne foreshadowed a later 
Queen ; and by the " gracious " attention accorded to 
" everything that was said," which contrasted strongly 
with the dryness of Queen Anne's predecessor. Her first 
speech to the Council he describes as both "well considered" 
and acceptable. She expressed "great respect to the memory 
"of the late King, in whose steps she intended to go ; for 
"preserving both Church and State in opposition to the 

1702] Burnet preaches before Queen Anne 393 

growing power of France ; and for maintaining the suc- 
cession in the Protestant line." If she promptly revoked 
the Ecclesiastical Commission of her predecessor, this 
had been anticipated and did not call for surprise. 

That day week, in the ordinary course, it became 
Burnet's office to preach the first sermon addressed to 
the new Queen. His discourse was strictly "occasional" ; 
founded on the text which describes Queens as the nursing 
mothers of the Church. A brief appropriate eulogy of the 
dead King was followed by a still briefer, and very 
graceful, allusion to his successor. '* If there was anything 
" wanting, we may justly hope that the soft and affectionate, 
*' the tender and healing part is reserved for her" ; while the 
well-tested piety of the new ruler s private conversation 
receives appropriate commendation. As regards more 
public matters, good government (it is insinuated) implies 
in its external manifestation '* good " alliances and their 
forcible maintenance. Domestic concerns evoke reference 
to the great ecclesiastical spoliation of the sixteenth 
century, when ** not only what was wrong[ly] given was 
•* swallowed up," but much that could have been better 
applied. This hint evinces Burnet's continued solicitude 
for the great project of re-endowment, in whose interest he 
had already enlisted the sympathies of the Princess ; and 
which was soon to take form in Queen Anne's Bounty. 
With delightful simplicity he hints that Solomon had need of 
sagacity ^^for Saufs party was very strong'' ; and the sub- 
sequent course of the reign lends a certain pathos to his 
earnest appeal for unity. Let men, he pleads, cast aside 
''faction and clamour, censure... and animosities, and every- 
** thing that may interrupt the harmony that ought to be the 
"glory, and is the strength of every nation." Strange 
words to usher in the distracted reign of Anne! 

At the moment when Burnet so spoke the nation was 
represented by a Tory House of Commons, and a Ministry 
predominantly Tory. Mr Sichel has lucidly defined for 
us the Tory of 1702; his creed was the "compatibility 
" of the Revolution settlement tvith the preponderance of 
** the Church and the Land'' But towards the close of 
William's reign the spokesmen of the squires and the clergy 
— who had always distrusted the King, and felt the burden 

394 ^^ Tories and Marlborough [ch. x 

of war taxation — ^had demanded Retrenchment, Peace and 
Reform (of the Royal prerogative). The insolent ambition 
of Louis had forced the party into war ; and the accession 
of a Queen whose associations were all with them, healed 
the breach between the Tories and the Court. Moreover, 
as next in succession to the dubious Prince of Wales (her 
sympathy with whom was very strongly suspected) she 
rallied to a considerable degree the loyalty of the semi- 
Jacobite Tories. This greatly increased the apparent scope 
of the party ; but diminished its eflfective strength. For 
the new recruits, if loyal to the Queen in possession, were 
ill-disposed to the existing Hanoverian settlement ; and the 
seeds of a fatal division were thus effectually sown. More- 
over, these ill-starred allies were in every respect extreme ; 
and their disintegrating influence upon the discipline of the 
party (which had never been very good), proved not only 
ruinous to the Tories, but a grave national danger. Few 
things are more prejudicial to any country than a faction 
led by its ''tail." 

These dangers, however, were at this period remote. 
The Tories, moreover, enjoyed for the moment the powerful 
support of Lord Marlborough ; who, in right of his wife's 
influence over the Queen, appeared, as William had fore- 
seen, the Grand Vizier of the hour. His character there- 
fore formed the pivot of the political situation. 

Patient, self-controlled, and eminently humane, Marl- 
borough was none the less in nature essentially cold. But 
two **grandes passions " stirred the even current of his blood. 
To his wife he was devoted ; and he ardently desired to found 
a great family. Dynasties, sovereigns, principles, parties 
and peoples only interested him in so far as they subserved 
this aim ; even War and Diplomacy were for him but 
avenues to fortune. The Continental command (already 
conferred by William and of course confirmed by the 
Queen), had thrown his self-interest into the scale of 
war ; and a strong War-Ministry was therefore his great 
desideratum. Such a Ministry, at this moment, could only 
be furnished by his old associates the Tories, to whom 
moreover the new Queen personally leaned. 

The remaining Whig members of the Ministry were 
therefore gradually superseded by Tories zealous for the 

I702] Letters from Leibnitz 395 

war. Matters, however, remained somewhat in suspense 
during the first six months of the reign. For, by a recent 
Act, the existing Parliament and Convocation were so long 
retained *'in being." 

Burnet's attitude during this interval is best illustrated 
in his correspondence. Just after the formal declaration of 
war, which took place on May -f^, 1 702, Leibnitz had written 
to Burnet. ** Nous ne pouvions," he had said, ** 6tre mieux 
"consoles de la mort fatale du roi, par rapport «t T Angle- 
" terre, que par les d-marches de la Reine, pleins de sagesse 
*' et de zele. Comme elle disabuse bien des gens prdvenus 
'* contre elle mal-^-propos, elle confirme enti^rement le juge- 
" ment que Madame TElectrice en a toujours fait. Dieu 
" veuille qu'elle puisse tenir la balance comme il faut entre 
*• les partis ! " He only wishes — how quaint the aspira- 
tion sounds — that the King had left on the field, no less 
than the throne, an adequate successor! He somewhat 
anxiously reviews the military position ; and trusts the 
danger of the general situation will further ecclesiastical 
union. He expresses a hope that the existing administration 
will not favour too exclusively the High Churchmen; whose 
predominance should not be pressed to the point of actual 

Six weeks later Leibnitz had written again, to announce 
that Mr Burnet of Kenmay* (while travelling in France 
for his health) had been arrested and committed to the 
Bastille; the arrest, as was supposed, being partly due to 
'*le nom illustre qui lui devoit faire honneur." The 
Electress, Leibnitz added, had at once interceded for him 
at Versailles, through her niece the Duchess of Orleans. 

To these letters Burnet responded as follows from 
Salisbury under date August 2 : 

" I hope you do forgive my not answering your 
"most obliging letter brought me by Dr Sands. Some 
" affairs are of too tender a nature to bear much discourse ; 
"and therefore I hope you are so good as to pardon my not 
"enlarging on them. We are now engaged in alliances 
"and embarked in the war. The succession is as well 
" secured as laws and oaths can make it, and our Queen is 

^ See supra^ p. 360. 

396 Letters to Leibnitz and Tenison [ch. x 

**both wise, just, and good*, so that we have all reason to 
" hope for a good event of things. It was a very good 
** prologue to the war which the Elector and the D[uke] of 
"Zell began at Wolfenbuttle*, and has had very good 
^' effects in keeping the North of the Empire united. We 
^* hope our fleet shall have the like success in the South ; 
^* but I engage too far. I must stop that I may give you 
" my most hearty thanks for your concern in my cousin's 
^'imprisonment in the Bastille. I had only heard of it 
*' before, but without any certainty about it. I beg you will 
**give my most humble thanks to her Electoral Highness 
** for the grace and favour she showed him in writing to the 
*' Duchfess] of Orleans on his behalf. I cannot learn 
^' anythmg about him, or whether he is still in prison or not ; 
'' for as soon as I am rightly informed of that I will humbly 
** move her Majesty that he may be demanded at least for 
" some of the prisoners that our privateers have taken. In 
'* the meanwhile I am very sensible of the great obligation 
**you lay on me by your friendly zeal in this matter...." 

To the Archbishop of Canterbury, some ten days later, 
Burnet wrote as follows : — " I send you with this a letter 
"''...with the draught of the new liturgy preparing in 
" Switzerland and already in use in Neuchatel. I thought 
'* it a matter of too great importance to write any answer 
^'to it, till I had laid it before your Grace.... I have also 
''a long letter from Mr Turretin much to the same purpose 
" with a proposition for uniting the Lutherans and the 
^* Calvinists which he thinks would receive much strength 
*' if the Church of England would promote it ; in which 
''he thinks Prince George [the Queens husband] can 
" do great service*. God knows we are not at present 
** united enough among ourselves to have much credit 
"about \sic\ In the next place I must beg your Grace's 
^'orders as to my coming up. The Session is to begin 

^ At this moment indeed the personal popularity of the Queen was at its 
height ; as she had voluntarily surrendered for the purposes of the war the sum 
of £100,000. For the reason see Klopp x. 51. 

^ See Klopp, Full des H, Stuart^ x. 45. The Dukes of Wolfenbtittel were 
arming on the side of France, when their territory was occupied by their kins- 
men of Celle and Hanover. 

' For the connection between the liturgy and reunion schemes see Klopp's 
Corres, de Leib» avec VEUctrice^ iii. 341. Prince George was a Lutheran. 


1702] Occasional Conformity 397 

"early ; but the first fortnight there is so little to be done> 
" in the House of Lords especially, that I do not apprehend 
** the necessity of being in Town by the 8th of October. 
But this I submit to your Grace. ... I hope you will not call 
me up unless you see the service of the Queen or of the 
** Church required....! did not at all meddle [in the elec- 
** tions for